The Prime Minister’s silence on the Lalit Modi controversy that has engulfed foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhra Raje has undermined his promise of zero tolerance to corruption, Congress leader Sachin Pilot said on Monday.
The Rajasthan Congress chief’s dig at the Narendra Modi government at HT Unplugged came on a day senior party colleague Jairam Ramesh described elsewhere the Prime Minister as “Swami Maunendra Baba” for his silence on the raging Lalit Modi row.
“The perception is that the PM is allowing his image of a strong leader to be taken hostage. The true test of the leadership comes when you have to take tough decisions against your own. When the government was dithering on the issue, the PM could have shown the right way,” the Congress leader said.
He asked why the Prime Minister, who called himself the country’s chowkidar or watchman, was allowing illegalities to take place.
“It is an odd moment for Modi Sarkar. Contrary to people’s expectations of taking action against wrongdoings there has been a deafening silence from the Prime Minister,” he said
Pilot said the BJP’s top leadership was wrong to think the issue would wither away without any action against Raje and Swaraj.
“It is not the Congress party allegation … This is something Lalit Modi has put out himself and as an opposition party we are making the government of the day accountable,” Pilot said, reasserting his party’s demand for resignation of the two embattled ministers. “We are just asking them to act.”
Pilot warned that the Lalit Modi episode would turn into a people’s issue because there “cannot be two laws in the country, one for those in power and another for common citizens”.
He rebutted allegations that the Congress-led UPA government of the time didn’t issue a red-corner alert against Lalit Modi when he left India for Britain after the IPL match-fixing and betting scandal broke.
“It was only when the Narendra Modi government came to power that his (Lalit Modi) fortune turned. He could travel across the world. I think he released the documents now because he was upset with the BJP for not delivering as much as he expected,” he said, referring to Raje and Swaraj’s help to the former IPL boss with British travel and immigration papers.
Pilot didn’t agree with the idea of barring politicians from sports, saying it might be “stretched” because some of the people had added value.
“If there is wrongdoing, the law should take its course, irrespective of whether a person is a politician or not.”
He said the BJP has compromised on its core issue of abolition of Article 370 by taking the post of deputy chief minister in Jammu and Kashmir and dithered on the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya.