Congress says Sushma, Raje violated laws; questions Jaitley

Sushma Swaraj
Sushma Swaraj

New Delhi (IANS): The Congress on Monday accused External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje of violating central laws in their dealings with former IPL chief Lalit Modi.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad signalled his party’s intention to raise the issue forcefully during the monsoon session of parliament and questioned Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for his “clean chit” to Raje’s son.

The opposition party also asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “break his silence” on the issue.

In Jaipur, union minister Nitin Gadkari said that allegations against Raje were “baseless” and the BJP and the central government stood strongly behind her. He also backed Raje’s son Dushyant Singh, who is a BJP member of parliament.

Azad, accompanied by former union minister Jairam Ramesh at a press conference at the Congress party office here, posed five questions to the prime minister and asked if Sushma Swaraj and Raje were guilty of “clear-cut offences” under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Foreign Exchange Management Act and the Indian Penal Code.

In its release, the party said “criminal intent and commission of criminal offences, both on part of Sushma Swaraj and Raje are now out in the open”.

“These are substantiated by a series of documents, emails, video statements and undeniable facts,” the statement said.

Sushma Swaraj has been accused of helping former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi in getting British travel documents on “humanitarian grounds” to travel to Portugal in 2014 after his Indian passport stood revoked.

Raje is accused of testifying in favour of Lalit Modi’s British immigration application in 2011.

Attacking Jaitley over his remarks in the US that financial dealings between Dushyant Singh and Lalit Modi were “commercial transactions”, Azad said these would influence the Enforcement Directorate (ED) probe.

“Why is the finance minister giving a clean chit? It is very surprising,” he said.

Azad, who is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said the Congress was convinced that the ED probe is going to be a “whitewash”.

He said the government had told Delhi High Court that while the ED was probing allegations against Lalit Modi, Jaitley had spoken about the former IPL chief’s transactions related to Dushyant Singh.

The Congress alleged that Ananda Heritage Hotels Private Limited (AHHPL), a company owned by Lalit Modi, had invested Rs.11.63 crore in Niyant Hotels Private Limited, of Dushyant Singh through an “unsecured loan and purchase of Rs.10 share at a premium of Rs 96,190 each”.

“Can it be termed as a simple commercial transaction by any stretch of imagination, as stated by Jaitley,” Azad asked.

He also questioned Jaitley’s backing for Raje, accusing him of “prejudging the issue”.

Attacking Narendra Modi, Azad said: “(We are) slowly coming to the conclusion that the prime minister is party to this (matter).”

Jairam Ramesh said the prime minister should break his ‘maun vrat (silence)’ and do some ‘mann ki baat (speak from the heart)’.

The opposition party said it was sticking to its demand for the resignation of Swaraj and Raje and said it will keep raising the issue till the monsoon session of parliament.

Gadkari, who met Raje at her residence in Jaipur, told media persons later that allegations against her were baseless.

“The accusations (of Congress) have no substance,” Gadkari said.

“Vasundhara-ji is totally right legally, logically and ethically. There is no fault of hers anywhere. Doing this kind of politics is not right,” the union road, transport and highways minister added.

Gadkari also assured Raje that the BJP and the union government strongly supported her.

“I assured her (Raje) that the government and the BJP stand strongly with her,” the union minister said.

Gadkari also defended Dushyant Singh and said all transactions were on record in income tax returns.

“Borrowing money from someone is no crime,” Gadkari said.