NEW DELHI: Mounting a multi-pronged attack on the NDA Government, the Congress on Wednesday questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “silence” on the Lalit Modi controversy and demanded that the former IPL boss be brought back to India to face trial and that External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje resign.
There was little ambiguity that the controversy has been delivered at the Opposition party’s doorstep, virtually on a platter. The aside of the Congress’ media incharge, Randip Surjewala, that the party was rather “grateful to the vigilant media” said it all. The remarks of the party’s Rajasthan chief, Sachin Pilot, were no less telling: “One thing keeps coming to mind again and again, Modiji used to say during his campaign: ‘Na khaunga na khane dunga (I’ll neither be on the take, nor allow anyone to be on the take). So what happened? Why is he not on Twitter for the last four days?”
And the Congress attack increasingly resembled what the BJP and the Opposition had mounted against then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his “deafening silence” on UPA scams. However, the accusations against Sushma and Raje appeared to be getting into the serious, legal zone.
The Congress charged Sushma and Raje not only with just “constitutional impropriety and misuse of office” but also with “criminal culpability”. What further complicated the matter was Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s qualified defence that his Cabinet colleague had “done no wrong” as well as the confirmation that there were indeed ED, DRI and Income Tax cases pending against Lalit -- the Opposition claims that money laundering was to the tune of `1,700 crore.
“There is a clear-cut culpability on part of both the External Affairs Minister and Rajasthan Chief Minister under Section 107, 120B, 166A, 172, 173, 177, 217 and 221 of the IPC” was the line adopted by the Congress and the Left parties, the CPI in particular. And the Congress didn’t rule out a legal recourse.
Singling out, the party said she should be investigated for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act for allegedly signing on, among three other people, an application by Lalit seeking permission to remain in the UK to evade the economic offences probe against him in India. Lalit’s lawyer Mehmud Abdi said the Rajasthan CM had agreed sign on the application on the condition that it wouldn’t be brought into public domain.