Raje in Delhi for Niti meet; talks likely with top BJP leaders

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Jaipur
  • Updated: Jun 27, 2015 14:21 IST

Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje arrived in Delhi on Saturday morning to attend a Niti Aayog meet, a day after the BJP ran down any clamour for her removal over a controversy involving former IPL boss Lalit Modi.

Raje is expected to interact with the party's top leadership during the day for the first time after her name cropped up in the row.

Rajasthan BJP has refuted all the allegations being levelled at Raje, saying a document which she signed in support of Modi's immigration application to the UK government was never produced in court as she had backed out of it later.

The state unit of the party has also claimed that Modi's investment in the chain of hotels owned by her son was legal and had been disclosed to authorities.

The top leadership of the party is learnt to have accepted Raje's defence. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday night and was understood to have discussed the party's strategy over a fresh disclosure that Raje allegedly benefitted from investments of over Rs 11 crore made by Lalit Modi in her son's company.

There is pressure on Raje to quit following charges of "financial dealings" with Lalit Modi but the sources said on Friday the BJP had decided to back her while tightening the noose on the former IPL boss.

On Friday, PM Modi, Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley met separately to discuss the raging row before the party called Raje the "tallest leader in Rajasthan".

The party cast aside any reluctance to openly back the beleaguered leader after former IPL chief Lalit Modi threw a lifeline by training his tweets on the Gandhi family.

Sources said the central leadership could soon come out with a structured response to every allegation against Raje and her parliamentarian-son Dushyant Singh, in whose company the former IPL chief had invested heavily.

"The BJP fully supports Vasundhara Raje … The Congress is targeting our popular leaders and we stand by her," party secretary Shrikant Sharma said in Delhi, a day after Jaitley dropped a one-line defence that "nobody is tainted".

Jaitley also had a meeting with Prime Minister Modi, though party leaders said Raje was not discussed.

Lalit Modi tweeted on Friday that he met Priyanka and Robert Vadra in London, allowing space for the party to counter fire with fire, a BJP leader said.

The BJP launched a counterattack against the Congress on the basis of an assessment that the clamour for Raje and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj's heads for helping Lalit Modi would die out soon and the party need not do anything in haste.

In Jaipur, the chief minister's office denied reports that she was rallying supporters for a showdown amid rumours that she might be made a scapegoat.

A senior BJP leader in Delhi - a confidant of Raje - explained Raje's defence about her son's business links with Lalit Modi.

"Dushyant got an unsecured loan from Modi, a family friend. The value of the company's share skyrocketed after Duhsyant's company got the lease of Dholpur Palace, a family property, for 30 years to be converted into a hotel. Modi then converted this unsecured loan into shares," the leader said.

The Congress has insisted that it was dishonest transaction but the BJP countered that had the unsecured loan been black money, Dushyant would not have put it in his account books and got it audited.

As for Raje's controversial signature on Lalit Modi's UK immigration affidavit, a BJP functionary said she agreed to sign for two reasons.

"First, she has known him for years and, second, she felt that Modi was being victimised for his proximity to her. Immigration laws have provisions to keep the identity of a witness hidden from authorities who may be victimising a person seeking immigration in some other country. The secrecy is to insulate the witness from any harassment from the authorities."

The BJP leader said she did not misuse any office or misappropriate government funds to benefit Lalit Modi.

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