A belligerent BJP decided to brazen it out after the party was sucked into fresh controversies on Wednesday as a Delhi court admitted a fake-degree case against HRD minister Smriti Irani and corruption allegations were hurled at Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde.
The BJP’s troubles exacerbated by evening as a signed letter of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje backing former IPL chief Lalit Modi’s British immigration application surfaced, denting the party’s defence that there was no evidence in the case.
Raje and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj have been facing flak for helping Modi get British travel and immigration papers at a time he is wanted in India for alleged financial irregularities.
But the party leadership decided to back the ministers — even Raje for the time being —and ride out the first major political storm to hit the Narendra Modi government after it rode to power with an overwhelming majority in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
“Our ministers do not have to resign. This is not their (Congress’s) government, this is NDA government,” home minister Rajnath Singh said.
Party spokesperson Sambit Patra defended Irani, saying she had filed no false affidavit.
"It is not a fake affidavit case, it's a typographical error, similar to (Congress president) Sonia Gandhi's typographical error," he said.
Sources said the party was, however, worried how the situation would play out in the next three-four days because yielding to pressure to sack any of the controversy-hit ministers could push the BJP to a vulnerable position before the assembly elections in Bihar.
Senior leaders said any action would be as good as admission of guilt and undermine the government’s corruption-free image.
The leadership was also wary of a possibly damaging after effect from sacking senior leaders. “Raje has grown too big to be touched. She is not someone who would just step aside at the high command’s direction. Her removal will send ripples deep down,” a senior BJP functionary said.
The BJP has 163 MLAs in the 200-member Rajasthan assembly, but it fears that precipitating the matter would prompt Raje to flex muscles.
Similar arguments were cited for Smriti Irani, known to enjoy the Prime Minister’s confidence.
“The court has not issued summons to her. There is no FIR against her. The Congress is of the habit of making wild allegations without doing homework,” BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said.