NEW DELHI: Undaunted by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s spirited fightback and backing by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Congress today said it would persist with raising questions on the Lalit Modi controversy as government has ‘failed’ to respond on key issues.
The party also demanded “unqualified apology” from Swaraj for allegations against Rajiv Gandhi during yesterday’s debate in the Lok Sabha and approached the Speaker to seek expunction of the charges against the former Prime Minister.
“Swaraj and Jaitley put up a last-ditch effort. They did everything except to answer crucial questions that arose out of Swaraj’s intervention on behalf of Lalit Modi,” the controversial former IPL boss, senior party leader P Chidambaram told reporters.
Chidambaram noted that there were basically three sets of questions, one relating to the External Affairs Minister’s intervention, second the passport case of Lalit Modi and third the letters he had written as Finance Minister to his British counterpart.
He insisted that Swaraj and Jaitley had not answered them. “I am afraid that the two Ministers have failed the government and the people. Instead of a debate, we got a diatribe. Instead of answers, we got sermons. Instead of facts, we got a fudge.” “If the Ministers think that these questions will go away, I am afraid they will not”, Chidambaram said at the AICC briefing, wondering why government was not releasing letters written by him as Finance Minister to his British counterpart.
He said that if the government failed to release the letters, some enterprising journalist would do so and dismissed the present Finance Minister’s claim that the release of the letters would prejudice the investigations or help Lalit Modi. “Which Ministry or authority has objected to the release and, if so, under which provision of RTI Act?”, Chidambaram said.
He also sought to know who took the decision not to file an appeal in the Supreme Court in the passport cancellation case of Lalit Modi. Besides, he took strong exception to “blatantly false” references made by Swaraj to Rajiv Gandhi and alleged payments to him by Ottavio Quattorocci in the Bofors case. “Why did she not turn to Jaitley and seek confirmation of her allegations?”, he said seeking her unqualified apology.
He dwelt at length over the judgement of Justic Kapur of the Delhi High Court in the matter. In a related development, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan seeking expunction of the allegations made by Swaraj against the late Prime Minister, party whip K C Venugopal said. The Congress reaction came a day after an adjournement motion in the Lok Sabha was negatived after a four-hour debate which witnessed attacks and counterattacks by the Union Ministers and Rahul Gandhi.