SEEMA MUSTAFA | 15 JUNE, 2015
The Reason Why PM Modi and the RSS Decided to Support Sushma Swaraj
Its all good for now: PM Narendra Modi and Minister Sushma Swaraj
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the only option he had, to support Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. He ensured that this was backed visibly and vocally by the Bharatiya Janata party with president Amit Shah coming out in loud support; and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh whose Indresh Kumar said, "Sushmaji is full of nationalism and humane nature. Whatever she might have done, would be guided by nationalism and humane nature."
Swaraj came out of the meeting with PM Modi clearly reassured, and hitting back at the Opposition with,"what benefit did I pass on to Lalit Modi – that he could sign consent papers for surgery of his wife suffering from Cancer ?"
Humanitarian clearly is the key word being used now in defense of Swaraj with Shah also maintaining, "There were no moral grounds involved. The help was based on humanitarian grounds." Home Minister Rajnath Singh was categorical too, “what Sushma ji has done, it is right... I want to clarify that the government stands with her."
The man in the eye of the storm in both India and the US Lalit Modi remained calm. "Waiting and watching the story unfold. No comment for now,” he said.
But in the midst of the government versus opposition play off there is the second story that has been appearing in bits and pieces through the media. And is buzzing in the corridors of power. This is probably the biggest reason why PM Modi and the rest have decided to back Swaraj at this stage, and thereby stitch the seams of party unity that seemed to have frayed over the last one year. The top brass realised that by removing her they would one, strengthen the opposition that would then directly target the Prime Minister in Parliament and outside; and two, give a handle to inner-party tensions that seem to have surfaced with this story.
For the Opposition thus, it is all about corruption and protection of the former Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi whose Passport was impounded by the Congress led government for a Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) Violation. A Blue corner notice has been issued against him with the Enforcement Directorate, that comes under the Union Finance Ministry, investigating the alleged Rs 425 crore foreign exchange violations. Blue notice according to Interpol is “to locate, identify or obtain information on a person of interest in a criminal investigation”. The ED also investigating a case lodged against Modi under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. He was found guilty by a BCCI disciplinary committee that included Arun Jaitley, of rigging bids in the IPL 2010 season to favour Gautam Adani and the Videocon groups’, amongst other charges including ‘violations’ in giving television rights for the matches.
For the BJP, however, the issue is more life threatening. The BJP grapevine is buzzing with rumours of internecine warfare with fingers like Kirti Azad’s pointing at this ‘mysterious person’ orchestrating the media coverage against Swaraj. It was a coup of sorts, but did not succeed in her ouster----at least not as yet although sources insist that the ammunition against both her and the mysterious man, who many insist is a prominent Minister in government, being stored in the ‘warehouse’ for use at a more opportune time.
The news broke in London’s Sunday Times that was of course targeting British Labour MP Keith Vaz for helping Lalit Modi get the immigration papers at the instance of the Indian Foreign Minister. Within hours it was all over Indian television channels that had the documents of the relevant correspondence, and reportedly more details about the entire push to give Modi a legal status in UK. Those close to Swaraj suspect this to be the handiwork of the Minister in question, with tweets hinting darkly about this mysterious person behind the media campaign.
Reports of differences between Ministers in the BJP have been making the rounds for a while. Differences have been reported between Prime Minister Modi and Sushma Swaraj herself before and during the Lok Sabha elections, as she was seen by the media as being in the ‘L.K.Advani camp’ that was reportedly not very happy with the rise of the then Gujarat chief minister. That she was included in the Cabinet as the Minister of External Affairs was a surprise for many, but over the last year it has become clear that foreign policy is being determined not by her but by PM Modi and his Office. News reports detailing this have appeared on and off in the media, with the Foreign Minister’s absence from the PM’s foreign tours evoking considerable comment. Sushma Swaraj is by no means a PM favourite, restricted to running matters of foreign policy in which he is not particularly interested such as the evacuation of the Indians from Yemen. Action against her at this point would have also fuelled rumours of these differences, besides turning Swaraj into a dissident.
Differences between Swaraj and Finance Minister Jaitley are almost legendary as these span the last few years now. The two do not see eye to eye, and more so after Jaitley left the L.K.Advani support group to join the Modi bandwagon long before the Lok Sabha polls. For instance, both crossed swords over the induction of controversial B.Sriramulu into the BJP in Karnataka. Swaraj publicly opposed this. Jaitley responded, without naming her, on his blog with, “Relatively marginal issues such as declaration of candidates particularly who is in and who is out cannot be allowed to dominate the political agenda in the BJP. These issues divert the attention from the core issues of governance.”
“We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball. We must continue the political debate on the anti-incumbency issues against the UPA and the ability of the BJP and Narendra Modi to provide a solution to the problems of the country,” he added.
Swaraj tweeted later, “I want to make it absolutely clear that B.Sriramulu has been admitted in the party despite my stiff opposition.”
Adding to this face off within the BJP, is the fact that Lalit Modi while close to Swaraj and her entire family has been bitterly opposed to Jaitley. Sushma Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal was Modi’s lawyer for at least 22 years, followed now by their daughter Bansuri who the Opposition claims has been representing Lalit Modi for seven years. The media has also been carrying reports of Swaraj Kaushal seeking Modi and Keith Vaz’s help to secure admission in London for his nephew.
Jaitley on the other hand has been the target of Lalit Modi’s tweets, and statements while in India. This was probably because he was one of the three members including Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia on a BCCI disciplinary committee that accused Modi of fraud. Modi had always maintained that Jaitley was gunning for him, a relationship that does not seem to have mended with time. Recently, of course Modi is credited with praising the new government, PM Modi and his Ministers.
All said and done, the lid might have been placed on this episode but the glue might not have the sealing power required.