NEW DELHI: If pithy one-liners could make or mar political careers, they were aplenty in the past one week and Saturday was no exception. As is the wont of a party in the Opposition, the Congress took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for following “Raje Dharma” and not “Rajya Dharma”.
This is vis-à-vis the Lalit Modi saga -- his controversial travels and prolonged stay in London, secured through recommendations of two top BJP women leaders Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj, among others.
His alleged violations of FEMA, shady cricketing deals, stash landing in offshore Mauritius accounts and especially provocative tweets have been keeping the political cauldron boiling for the past two weeks.
Raje Misses PM Meet
Rajasthan Chief Minister Raje, against whom allegations, even those running into money deals, are many, came to New Delhi ostensibly to attend a meeting of the new-flanged NITI Aayog. Despite the build-up, she went without getting an audience with the Prime Minister. Lest the lack of a Prime Minister-Chief Minister meeting was taken as a snub and more meaning was read into it than intended, the Raje entourage categorically denied such a thing was ever on the schedule. Raje, the media had expected, would give her side of the story to the Prime Minister, on why she gave a recommendation to Lalit helping him stay back in London, primarily to jump investigations into the economic offenses allegedly committed during his days at the BCCI, the flamboyant IPL tenure.
The BJP issued a statement backing Raje even before she arrived at the NITI Aayog. But the Prime Minister, significantly, did not meet her, refusing a direct endorsement.
The Congress, picking on what it saw as an “unease” in the upper echelons of the government and the BJP, asserted there was “no question of stepping back” from the demand of Raje’s resignation. A similar demand for Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, embroiled in the same issue, was made almost for form sake.
What Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Congress unit chief, told Express, made it obvious: “Her (Raje) position has become untenable, no one knows it better than the BJP and the government. Had it been anywhere else, she would have been answering the questions before an investigative agency, not to the Opposition or the media,” adding it’s “too glaring for an issue -- what was common knowledge is now being backed up documentary proof”.
When it was pointed out that Raje has clarified that the “documentary proof” was not in the form of affidavit she signed, Pilot shot back, “Who’s she trying to fool by hair splitting? For four years, Lalit does not get the clearance from the UK (to stay on), then her letter is attached to the affidavit, everything is cleared... That she wanted the support to Lalit remain a “secret” shows “awareness about she doing something not permissible by law. How can she continue after it’s in the open, by what logic?”
The Congress is quite convinced that it’s a war of nerves. “The Prime Minister is buying time, wishing the crisis will blow away. It will not. Mmore they delay, more the damage,” the otherwise polite Pilot took a direct dig at Modi. Also, the tit-for-tat politics is at play. The Congress, at the moment claims that it’s not worried about the dirt being thrown on its party members as well -- “Let them produce documents,” Pilot hedges, “We’ll see when it comes.”
The grand old party clearly hopes to carry the tirade on till the Monsoon session of Parliament, scheduled between July 21 and August 13, for which the government has just issued a notification. The BJP hopes just the opposite, dissipate the charges flying thick and wild. No one knows who would have the last laugh.