The Congress found fresh ammo to fire at foreign minister Sushma Swaraj after a leaked email on Wednesday said former IPL chief Lalit Modi had offered her husband, lawyer Swaraj Kaushal, a position on the board of his family-run company, Indofil.
The offer via email was made in April 2015 and Kaushal rejected it over the phone.
“I have been a lawyer for Lalit Modi for over 20 years. I did not give my consent to be the director. The request was withdrawn,” Kaushal said on Wednesday.
He was offered the powerful position of “alternate director”, which would have enabled him to represent Lalit Modi and take decisions on his behalf at board meetings.
The Congress rejected the clarification and seized on the job offer to escalate the demand for his wife’s resignation from the government.
“His rejection is not relevant. The main issue is that he was offered the position. This also shows a quid pro quo,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi, pointing to the offer that came within months of Swaraj helping the controversial cricket czar secure British travel documents.
“The offer clearly shows the proximity between Lalit Modi and Sushma Swaraj’s family,” he said, underscoring the Congress’s accusation of nepotism against the minister because her husband and daughter, Bansuri Kaushal, were lawyers of Modi.
The Congress has been groping for fresh leads to keep up the pressure on Swaraj after the minister clarified that she intervened in 2014 to help Lalit Modi get British travel papers on humanitarian grounds because he sought her assistance to visit his ailing wife in a Portuguese hospital.
The party questioned why the additional solicitor general’s opinion was not taken before the minister decided to support Lalit Modi’s travel application.
The CMD of Indofil and Lalit Modi’s father, KK Modi, defended Swaraj after the leaked email triggered fresh outrage against her.
He said the proposal was withdrawn even before it was placed before the board. “It never considered that request. That’s the current situation. Lalit didn't give him power but made a proposal that Kaushal be appointed as alternate director of the company,” the senior Modi said. “(When) he's not on the board, where is the conflict of interest?”
The BJP brushed aside the allegations as frivolous. “When he turned down the offer, what is the problem? Swaraj Kaushal has not hidden his professional links with Lalit Modi,” said party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao.
The CPI(M) demanded a thorough investigation to clear all doubts. “Until the inquiry is over, they must not be holding public offices,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, referring to Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, the second prominent BJP face to be engulfed by the Lalit Modi controversy.