NEW DELHI: Government appeared to be willing to brazen out the massive controversy engulfing Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over helping Lalit Modi by stating that "nobody is tainted".
Putting up a brave front in the wake of the growing Opposition chorus for the resignation of Raje and Sushma, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the media, "Well, there is nobody who is tainted please" shortly after his arrival in Delhi from the US.
Another senior minister, M Venkaiah Naidu, said the Narendra Modi government was working in the "most honest and transparent" manner and blamed some "unhappy people" for the outcry over Raje's help to the former IPL boss.
"As far as party is concerned everything is happening positively," he said as reporters sought to know BJP leadership's stand on the raging row.
Coming to the defence of Raje, party spokesperson Sambit Patra asked, "What is the impropriety in the case of Raje? These are only some documents. Their authenticity is yet to be proved. Did she testify before any court and before a judge? Has the UK government said anything?"
Vasundhara admits to helping Lalit Modi
Bharatiya Janata Party sources said that Saudan Singh, who is organisational incharge of Rajasthan, and general secretary Arun Singh met Raje in Jaipur on Wednesday following Congress showing the purported document.
According to the sources, the chief minister told the two leaders that document contained her signatures. She is also learnt to have told the two leaders that she had testified in her personal capacity when she was the leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan assembly.
Raje is also learnt to have conveyed that she was willing to resign if other leaders facing accusations were willing to do so.
What has seriously embarrassed the BJP is her reported statement that she did not want her support to Lalit Modi to be made known to Indian authorities.
RSS cautions BJP
The RSS has also cautioned the BJP leadership against falling into any "media trial trap", informed sources told IANS.
According to them, the RSS is of the view that if Raje is asked to resign, the pressure will mount on the BJP to take a call over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is too accused of helping Modi in getting British travel documents for going to Portugal in 2014 after his Indian passport was revoked.
BJP Secretary Shrikant Sharma hit out at Congress for levelling "baseless allegations" against Raje and claimed the opposition party was acting out of "frustration".
Raje's Office Blames Media
Seeking to put a lid on speculation that she has been asked to quit, Raje's office termed it as "untrue" while complaining about "unsubstantiated media reports."
The CMO came out with two statements in Jaipur denying media reports and dismissing speculation that she had convened a meeting of BJP MLAs to put pressure on the party leadership to desist taking action against her.
However, the statement makes no mention of the raging controversy that has engulfed Raje over a witness statement she purportedly provided in 2011 to Lalit Modi, former IPL chairman, who is wanted in India to answer grave charges of financial crimes.
Raje's office targeted the media for "false" reports being run on the basis of "rumours" to tarnish her image and cause "political damage".
Seeking to drive home its point, the CMO cited certain TV news headlines like '110 MLAs come in support of Raje' and 'resignation sought from Vasundhara, she says I will not tender resignation'.
It also referred to news items like 'If I am removed, the party would come in a great problem: Vasundhara' and 'BJP can divide if Vasundhra goes'.
The statement also talked about reports like 'MLAs and ministers are gathering at CM residence', 'CM is going to Delhi' and 'Rajendra Rathore, Medical and Health Minister, is going to Delhi'.
"These are untrue. Every such news be verified, cross checked and confirmed," it said.
New picture surfaces
Adding to her woes, a picture of then BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Raje and HRD Minister Smriti Irani at a dinner in London on July 20, 2011 surfaced on Thursday.
The picture was taken a month before she allegedly signed the statement in August 2011, supporting Lalit Modi's immigration appeal.
She was part of BJP delegation to London organised by the Overseas Friends of the BJP, which helps popularize the party abroad and mobilizes support among NRIs. Raje is reported to have stayed back in London to assist the former IPL chief.
Congress steps up attack
Sharpening its attack on BJP over the issue of help extended to Lalit Modi, Congress said the party should ask Raje to step down as it can no longer "continue to defend the indefensible".
Dismissing as being "lame" BJP's claim that the signatures in the said document are forged, Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot said, "I don't think it is possible for anyone to put up that lame an argument... And, if she had to deny the signatures, she should have done it perhaps in the beginning.
The party also asked why Minister Narendra Modi was hesitating to take action against BJP leaders on the Lalit Modi row and also slammed Home Minister Rajnath Singh for his remarks that no NDA ministers will resign.
The party made it clear that it will seek to rally other Opposition parties on the issue, when the Monsoon session convenes on July 21 to corner the Modi government.