NEW DELHI: With a situation of confrontation writ large over the Monsoon session of Parliament beginning on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj volunteered to make a statement on the Lalit Modi travel document controversy surrounding her, to take the sting out of the Congress attack.
At the all-party meeting, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “Sushmaji will speak (on the floor of the House) at the first given opportunity” to explain her position with regard to the Lalit Modi travel documents issued by the UK authorities. This was purportedly on her recommendation.
The move, indeed, created fissures within the Opposition camp. Regional political parties, particularly the SP, JD-U, BSP and BJD, seemed not quite ready to allow Parliament to be entirely disrupted without any discussion. JD-U chief Sharad Yadav said that while the party was coordinating with the Congress, “Such statements as the session would be washout should not be made”; BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said, “We want to speak on these issues and not join the Congress chorus.”
These were in response to the Congress ratcheting up the demand for resignation of BJP ministers and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers on the Lalit Modi scandal and Vyapam scam and setting it as a pre-condition for a smooth session.
However, the Congress remained adamant. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Lalit Modi controversy and the Vyapam scam, in which many young lives seem to have been lost, “are very serious issues and the government has to take some action”. As an opposition party “it is our bounden duty to make that demand” of resignation.
On the government side, Naidu and MoS Rajiv Pratap Rudy as also Mahtab hinted that the Congress was getting isolated on the demand of resignation, especially of Sushma, and had “toned down its position at the Lok Sabha Speaker’s meeting” that took place after the all-party meet.
Congress media in-charge Randip Singh Surjewala later retorted, “They must be daydreaming. We’re a constructive opposition laden with responsibility fixation by the Prime Minister against the External Affairs Minister and chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. It’s not the Opposition’s responsibility to run Parliament.”
On this particular point, Prime Minister Narendra Modi commented that it was “everyone’s duty to see that Parliament runs smoothly’’. He also added that the government was ready for discussion. Sources said the PM, who was at the all-party meeting for about 10 minutes, told the political leaders that the government was keen to find a “consensus” on the land bill.