Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi asked the prime minister to sack foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for helping fugitive former IPL chief Lalit Modi get travel papers as the opposition clamour for Swaraj’s resignation grew on Monday.
Gandhi also accused the prime minister of protecting the tainted cricket administrator, who is wanted in India on charges of money laundering. Modi fled to Britain in 2010 and has refused to face justice back home.
Swaraj has been in the firing line following reports that she helped Modi obtain travel documents last July even though he was wanted by the Enforcement Directorate and was being investigated by income tax authorities. At the time, his passport had been impounded. The foreign minister said she helped Modi get travel papers in London on "humanitarian" grounds as his cancer-stricken wife was due to undergo surgery in Portugal.
"Mr Modi (PM) is behind Mr Modi (Lalit), who is a symbol of black money. And the PM Modi keeps talking about black money," Gandhi said in Chhattisgarh after meeting villagers affected by the human-elephant conflict in the area.
Asked whether Swaraj should resign, he said: "Absolutely … PM Modi should sack her."
Gandhi said that if Swaraj could help Lalit Modi on humanitarian grounds, what then prevented the BJP government from offering help and suitable compensation to those affected by elephant menace in north Chhattisgarh.
"Why can’t someone whose hands got fractured by wild tusker too be extended with similar humanitarian assistance then?" Gandhi said.
Earlier, while interacting with villagers, Gandhi blamed the Centre and ruling BJP is Chhattisgarh for the man-animal conflict in the state, saying the elephant habitat was being destroyed to make way for coal mining in the name of development.
"Farmers and tribals are bearing the brunt of coal mining while elephants and other wildlife species, too, are getting displaced due to shrinking forests which serve as their habitat," the 44-year-old Amethi MP said.
"Just for the sake of a few industrialists, both the Centre and the state gave away the densely-forested Hasdeo-Arand region for mining. PM Modi calls it development. What kind of development model it is?" he asked.