Before Finance Minister Arun Jaitley came out in defence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday, the two leaders were brought together for their first meeting since the Lalit Modi controversy broke out.
Jaitley and Home Minister Rajnath Singh were supposed to address the media together on the rehabilitation and reconstruction package for Jammu and Kashmir. But before that, Singh brought Jaitley and Swaraj to the talking table, to send out the signal that the party and government were united in backing her.
The closed-door meeting, held at Rajnath Singh’s North Block office, went on for an hour.
At the press conference that followed, Jaitley came out in strong defence of Swaraj. “All the allegations are baseless. Her (Swaraj’s) statement and that of the party president makes it clear that whatever she did was with good intentions. Her actions were bona fide. The entire government and party are one on the issue. There should be no doubt on this,” Jaitley said.
Asked whether Swaraj had acted on her own to help Modi, Jaitley said all ministers in charge of various departments were capable of taking decisions and in all decisions taken by the government there is collective responsibility.
Jaitley chose not to answer a question on the tweet by BJP MP Kirti Azad talking of an “asteen ka saanp (backstabber)” and suggesting an internal conspiracy against Swaraj. “Ask the next question,” he said.
According to sources, calls were made to the offices of Jaitley and Swaraj from Singh’s office on Tuesday morning, and a meeting between the two was fixed for 3.30 pm. Officially, Swaraj came to Singh’s office to discuss visa issues, and Jaitley the J&K package.
After the meeting, Swaraj left Singh’s office, while the home and finance ministers were closeted together for another 10 minutes before heading out to address the media along with J&K Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu and MoS (Personnel) Jitendra Singh.
While refusing to share details of the meeting, Singh said the entire government was with Swaraj. “On the first day (of the controversy) itself I made it clear that whatever she has done is right and the government completely stands by her. Today also I maintain that stand,” the Home Minister said, adding, “If it is coming from me, it has to be credible information.”