The fresh charge that former IPL chief Lalit Modi offered External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s husband a position on the board of one of his family-run firms on Wednesday gave more ammunition to the Congress to raise questions of conflict of interest and demand the minister’s resignation. The Congress has been seeking Sushma’s ouster ever since it first came out that she had helped Lalit Modi secure British travel documents.
As television channels reported about an email purportedly sent by Modi in April to the company secretary of Indofil Industries and the offer made to Swaraj’s husband, Swaraj Kaushal, to serve as an alternate director in the firm, the Congress said the offer was yet another “evidence” of the “close proximity” between former IPL chief and the External Affairs Minister and her family.
“It further proves the quid pro quo charge and the conflict of interest on the part of the External Affairs Minister,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
“Why was an Indian fugitive making a job offer to Swaraj Kaushal in the first instance? Does the offer of appointment as a director in place of Lalit Modi not establish a personal business relationship between Foreign Minister and Modi?” the Congress spokesperson asked. The party also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his continued silence on the issue.
News agency PTI, meanwhile, quoted Kaushal as admitting that he was offered the position of alternate director on Indofil board but he did not give his consent and that the request was withdrawn.
But the Congress insisted that “whether that job was taken or not or fructified or not was irrelevant” as the offer “reveals closeness and commercial dealings.”
The Congress also demanded to know whether the Prime Minister was kept in the loop about the job offer to the minister’s husband. The party also asked the government to make public the minutes of the meeting between Swaraj and British High Commissioner to India James Bevan.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Swaraj had admitted that the meeting with the UK High Commissioner had taken place. “Minutes of the meeting in which help for Lalit Modi was sought have been recorded. They are with the External Affairs Ministry and they should be made public,” he told reporters.
In its counter attack, the BJP defended Swaraj for having a spotless political career spanning over four decades. “When the concerned person (Kaushal) had rejected such an offer, he should be appreciated and not sullied with charges that the Congress had been consistently raking up against the family,” BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain said.