In financial markets, when a trend dies out, there is either an explosive burst of buying (blowout) or a panic-driven sale (exhaustion). When that happens, one knows that the story/ trend is over.
Well, we have just witnessed that panic-driven irrational move. On Wednesday, NDTV and Times Now led with the story, from noon till midnight, that Swaraj Kaushal, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s husband and lawyer for K.K. Modi’s firm, Indofil, had, within an hour of being presented an offer from Lalit Modi to be an alternate director, summarily declined it. Swaraj Kaushal has been associated with Lalit Modi’s father K.K. Modi’s group for the last 20 years. Now he stood accused by the media-mob of conflict of interest for rejecting an offer to be an alternate director. Really?
The “Lalitgate” story has been relentless, manufactured, and suggests that the English TV and print media are biased. The “liberal” English media has not come to terms with the fact that Narendra Modi was elected last May. There are two main reasons for this: First, PM Modi is not one of them. Second, their forecasts and assessments of the man and the event (Election 2014) were nowhere close to the eventual reality.
May 2014 marked the beginning of the end of the Congress. Having led the fight for independence, the party has not forgiven the people for turning their backs on it in spite of this “favour”. So, they will stop Parliament from functioning.
Add to the mix a disappointed, out-of-influence, English media elite and you have a potent cocktail that produces stories like Swaraj Kaushal’s conflict of interest.
Let us reconstruct what happened. There is information available about the travel of an Indian citizen, Lalit Modi, based in England, to Portugal in July 2014 for his wife’s eighth cancer operation. The operation was life-threatening, which is why the doctors requested him to
But Lalit Modi could not travel because his passport had been revoked by the UPA in 2010. What is noteworthy is that this happened at the same time, perhaps coincidentally, as he was embroiled in an internal BCCI battle with N. Srinivasan, who assumed control of the board in 2011. Revoked on what grounds? On the recommendation of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), an agency housed in the ministry of finance and widely acknowledged to be as political (if not more) as its sister agency, the CBI. On cue, the ED slapped charges
of Fema violations on Lalit Modi. Note that a Fema violation is not a criminal charge.
It carries no jail term, only a financial penalty. A popular misconception is that Lalit Modi had been charged with violation of the Money Laundering Act, a criminal offence.
What did Sushma Swaraj do wrong?
In her own words: “Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British high commissioner that [they] should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi — that will not spoil our bilateral relations.” Is there a question about the “humanitarian” need for a husband to be close to his wife undergoing a life-threatening cancer operation?
Who other than Sushma Swaraj could decide whether foreign relations with the UK would be affected “adversely” if Lalit Modi were issued British travel documents? How can a senior bureaucrat or the high commissioner decide on political matters? The UPA had denied Lalit Modi travel on British documents on the grounds that this would “adversely affect” relations. Your guess is as good as mine on the adversity faced by the nation (or the BCCI?) because of Lalit Modi’s travel. Incidentally, the Delhi High Court admonished the UPA for revoking Lalit Modi’s passport and reinstated it on August 27, 2014.
PM Modi has taken the right course in not being intimidated by the vigilante English media. He has not commented on the issue (no need for him to do so) and not asked for any resignations. But Lalitgate has provided him with a Congress-sent opportunity to begin cleansing the system. What he will note, what he must note, is that this is not L’affaire Lalit, but really L’affaire BCCI. The real conflict of interest is with the BJP and Congress politicians in the BCCI. Politicians of all colour should be made to resign from the BCCI and other sporting bodies. This should be the start of Narendra Modi’s campaign to reduce corruption in India.
I used to believe that history will judge Fifa as the most legally corrupt organisation in the world and the BCCI, the second. I now believe that history will judge the BCCI as the most corrupt. I also no longer believe that Sushma Swaraj should have recused herself from making the decision. If I were in her position, I would have done the same.
The writer is contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’, and co-author with Ankur Choudhary of ‘Criconomics’
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