“The biggest achievement of this government is that not a single scam has happened in one year of the NDA rule,” thundered the BJP top brass from roof-tops as the government celebrated its anniversary last month. Even before the ink that printed those lines dried, comes the ‘Modigate’ nailing a lie.
Even before the ink that printed those lines dried, comes the ‘Modigate’ nailing a lie. In fact, the scam that has shaken the government to its roots had happened within 100 days of the Modi Government coming to power though it took time to get exposed. It was in July last year that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj requested the UK authorities to facilitate issue of travel documents to tainted former IPL chief Lalit Modi to enable him to go to Portugal to be with his ailing wife.
But, Lalit Modi is no ordinary citizen who should have been helped under humanitarian consideration. He is a fugitive taken shelter in London, after fleeing from India as several investigating agencies were after him. His passport was cancelled in 2010 and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence had issued a ‘light blue corner notice’ at the request of the Enforcement Directorate which was probing the IPL scam. Though his passport was restored in August 2014 by Delhi High Court, Modi did not have one when Ms Swaraj went out of the way to help him. There are several missing links in what the Minister did to show her humane face. It was an extraordinary move by her that nobody in the Ministry and the Indian High Commission in London was kept in the loop over the ‘humane gesture’ to someone who had fled the country. She did not think it necessary to consult agencies like DRI and ED before helping Modi who is an accused in several cases instituted by these agencies. She did not bother to seek conditions on his travel so as to restrict it to Portugal for a short period. Neither did she give thought to the conflict of interest involved in her ‘humanitarian act’ as her husband and daughter were lawyers appearing for Modi.
As the Swaraj saga was unfolding, yet another BJP leader, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, too got embroiled in the controversy allegedly over her ‘witness statement’ backing Modi’s application for immigration to UK when she was Opposition Leader in Assembly. What makes her position further weak is that she agreed to help him provided “Indian authorities” did not get wind of it. Adding to the saffron party’s woes, it has come to light that one of the firms of Lalit Modi had transferred crores of rupees to a firm run by Dushyant, Raje’s son and a party MP from Rajasthan.
Though the spotlight is on two leaders, the NDA Government itself is in the dock for not appealing against the order which restored Modi’s passport. It has to come clean on the various aspects of the case. It should tell the nation what it is doing to get Lalit Modi back in India. Narendra Modi who came to power on high moral grounds cannot take shelter under a long silence.
Dr Suresh Mathew