The Congress hit back at the BJP on Wednesday over allegations of Robert Vadra’s links with a fugitive arms dealer, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of making 100 tours within India and abroad on private chartered planes as Gujarat chief minister and asking who paid for them. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi also accused the BJP of “witch-hunt and vendetta” against party chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law.
Singhvi, with Gujarat Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia by his side, released a purported list of Modi’s visits abroad and within the country from 2003 to 2007 when he was the chief minister and asked who funded those. The two leaders claimed neither the government nor the BJP paid to private players owning the chartered planes used by Modi.
The details of Modi’s visits were made available in response to an RTI query, they said, adding Rs 16.56 crore was spent on those trips, including Rs 3 crore on visits abroad. The Congress’ allegations against Modi came in response to Tuesday’s attack by the BJP on Vadra and the Congress leadership following a report on a TV channel which claimed fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari paid for plane tickets of Sonia’s son-in-law.
Based on the media report, the BJP yesterday fielded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who mounted a fierce assault on the Congress leadership over alleged “links” that Vadra had with Bhandari. The report had claimed Bhandari booked tickets for Vadra’s overseas visit in 2012. “We are raising a question on who spent this Rs 16.5 crore. We want to know why a private party spends for a person in a constitutional position. What is the motive?” Singhvi said.
Charging the BJP with indulging in “vendetta politics”, Singhvi asked Modi or the BJP to come out with answers to their questions for the “sake of propriety”. “These trips are clearly trips by a constitutional functionary, position holder. They are provided for by private persons…and we do not have any account. We must have accountability first. We are talking of constitutional propriety as somebody was trying to teach us lessons on constitutional propriety yesterday. It is worse than the pot calling the kettle black,” he said. Singhvi also accused the Centra and the BJP-ruled Haryana and Rajasthan governments of engaging in a “witch hunt” against Vadra.
“In the last 41 months, the central government and the governments of Haryana and Rajasthan have been indulging in a witch hunt against Vadra. For the last 41 months, they have kept the pot boiling but have not found any proof,” Singhvi said.
“No conclusion, but it is lovely to keep the pot boiling, either when the elections are round the corner or when a ‘beta bachao andolan’ is in full speed, to divert, to digress, to confuse and to confound,” Singhvi said, in an obvious reference to a report by a news portal that the turnover of a company of BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay rose sharply after the party came to power at the Centre.
He termed as “baseless” the charges levelled against Vadra by Sitharaman based on the media report, which Vadra’s lawyer has already denied. Singhvi accused some in media of “selective” reporting and asked them to introspect.