In the first indication that the Lalit Modi firestorm will hit the Monsoon Session of Parliament beginning next month, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday said it will be “impossible” for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “face Parliament” if External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje continue to hold their posts.
“The Congress will of course raise this issue,” Azad told The Indian Express, “and I don’t think there will be any political party in the Opposition who can sit and watch this and be a silent spectator.”
His comments assume significance given the fact that barring the Congress and Left parties, no one in the Opposition has demanded Swaraj’s resignation. In fact, some like the Samajwadi Party, RJD and NCP have been sympathetic to her.
Sources in the Congress said the party would walk alone if need be, pointing out that the party had 68 members in the Rajya Sabha, double what the BJP had when it played “obstructionist politics in Parliament daily” when in the Opposition.
It would also have the support of the Left’s 10 members.
Demanding the resignation of Raje and Swaraj, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said on Thursday that the issue would be raised in Parliament. “It will surely be an issue during the forthcoming session and particularly in the background of the tall claims made by this government,” Yechury said. “Why is the Prime Minister silent?” he asked. “Does the PMO endorse all that has happened?”
Azad said the events unfolding are “alarming” and “a matter of concern” for the country and for the “credibility” of the PM. “It is better for the Prime Minister to clear the decks (for Swaraj’s, Raje’s removal) before the Monsoon Session. Otherwise once Parliament meets, it will be very, very difficult, rather impossible, for the Prime Minister to face Parliament,” he said.
Calling it “quite intriguing” the way the External Affairs Minister had helped “a fugitive” get travel documents, Azad said, “My submission to the Prime Minister is, come out of hiding, enough is enough, and break your silence. So far, Mr Prime Minister, you have chosen silence over action. Now the country would like you to act, not to continue in hiding.”
He asked why Swaraj hadn’t made Lalit Modi’s return to India a condition before helping him. “Because of her proximity to Lalit Modi, she missed one of the best chances to bring him back.”
Azad added that Raje’s involvement and “her son Dushyant’s business links with Modi” have been proved beyond doubt. “Both mother and son are neckdeep in corruption and the irregularities done by Modi during his period as IPL chief.”
“The way shares have been purchased by Lalit Modi from Dushyant’s company calls for immediate arrest of both Lalit Modi and Dushyant. Similarly, the letter given by Raje to British authorities for facilitating the stay of Modi in England with the condition that this should not be known to Indian authorities is a criminal act on the part of the Chief Minister, who was then the leader of the Opposition in the Rajasthan Assembly,” Azad said. “She should be charged according to the law of the land.”
Reminding the PM of his promise of a “transparent and corruption-free government” and “acche din (good days) for Indians and bure din (bad days) for those who do wrong”, Azad added, “We would like to ask him what happened to that promise?”
Congress spokesperson Tom Vadakkan too demanded that the PM break his silence on whether Raje and Swaraj acted with his consent. “Are there other people involved? The Prime Minister must come clean. He must come out of his political vipassana,” Vadakkan said.
Demanding a high-level inquiry by a special investigation team under the supervision of the Supreme Court, Yechury said, “The probity of the Narendra Modi government is under a big question mark. This can only be answered if a proper probe is constituted and, till the probe is on, these people should not continue to remain in office.”
Noting that both Swaraj and Raje were his “good friends” Yechury said there was nothing personal in the CPM seeking their resignation.