Calling the allegations levelled against the previous UPA government by former IPL chief Lalit Modi “laughable”, former finance minister P Chidambaram Wednesday said the NDA government should ensure he returns to India to face a probe by the Enforcement Directorate.
At a press conference at his Chennai residence, Chidambaram posed seven questions to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the NDA government on why rules and procedures were not followed while helping Modi acquire travel documents on “humanitarian grounds”. He alleged that the facts pointed to nepotism and abuse of authority by the NDA government.
Chidambaram said he had been briefed about the cases against Modi by the ED after he became finance minister in August 2012. “By then, Modi’s passport was cancelled and he was in the UK without a valid passport. ED had issued showcause notices and summons to him to appear but he never did that. That was the situation when I decided to take up the matter with my counterpart in the UK (George Osborne, UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer). We discussed the matter at a bilateral meeting and I wrote to him twice later,” Chidambaram said. He said that as per his recollection, the response to the first letter was not positive, and was not sure if he received a reply to the second.
He said the present controversy raised questions about the credibility and reputation of a minister of the Government of India, and put forth seven questions for the NDA government:
1. “Why is the government, despite repeated demands, not releasing letters exchanged between the former finance minister (Chidambaram) and the Chancellor of Exchequer, UK?”
2. “If Swaraj was inclined to facilitate Modi’s travel to Portugal on humanitarian grounds, why did she not advise him to apply to the Indian high commission in London for a temporary travel document to enable him to visit Portugal alone for a limited period? Why did she feel that Modi, an Indian citizen, should have a UK travel document rather than an Indian travel document?”
3. “Why did the Minister of External Affairs not insist that Modi first return to India as a condition for issue of a temporary travel document on humanitarian grounds?”
4. “When the division bench of the High Court set aside the cancellation of Modi’s passport, who took the decision not to file an appeal to the Supreme Court? Was the ED, at whose instance the passport had been cancelled, consulted in the matter? Furthermore, who took the decision to issue a fresh passport to Modi? Will the government make public the file notings on the subject?”
5. “A passport is a document to travel. To stay in a foreign country, one requires a visa or a permit from that country. Has the government of India lodged with the UK government its objections to the grant of a long term visa or residency permit to Modi, who has refused to appear before ED?”
6. “Modi now has an Indian passport. He is an Indian citizen subject to Indian laws. What steps has the government taken since the issue of a fresh passport to enforce the summons issued by ED?”
7. “What is the government’s answer to Modi’s wild charge that his life will be in danger if he returned to India?
Is the NDA government incapable of protecting an Indian citizen who is required by the ED to appear for an inquiry?”