Cong senior told me to give diplomatic passport to coal scam accused: Sushma Swaraj

Sushma Swaraj said she will disclose the name of a senior Congress leader who allegedly pressured her to give a diplomatic passport to Santosh Bagrodia, an accused in the coal scam case

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: July 23, 2015 11:25:45 am
Sushma Swaraj, Sushma Swaraj Congress, Sushma Swaraj Twitter, Sushma Swaraj Lalit Modi, Santosh Bagrodia, Santosh Bagrodia coal scam, coal scam, India news Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj

Under attack from the Congress which is seeking her resignation over the Lalit Modi issue, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj attempted a counter-attack Wednesday, saying a senior Congress leader had pressed her to give a diplomatic passport to former minister Santosh Bagrodia who has been summoned as an accused in the coal scam by a special CBI court.

“A senior Congress leader was pressing me hard to give diplomatic passport to the Coal Scam accused Santosh Bagrodia. I will disclose name of the leader on the floor of the House,” she tweeted Wednesday morning. As the day wore on, the BJP unleashed more ammunition to counter Congress which has stalled Parliament, demanding resignations of Swaraj and the CMs of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

A senior Congress leader was pressing me hard to give diplomatic passport to the Coal Scam accused Santosh Bagrodia.@ANI_news

— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) July 22, 2015

While the Congress rejected Swaraj’s claim calling it a “diversionary tactic”, Bagrodia said he had approached Swaraj for “extending the validity” of his diplomatic passport last year.

Also read: Sushma Swaraj’s remarks show her ‘desperation to stay relevant,’ says Congress

Bagrodia, who was MP for 18 years, said he always had a diplomatic passport. “Sushma and I know each other very well. My wife is a cancer patient. When she was the health minister in the NDA government, it was she who had given me permission for taking her abroad for a PET scan. During that time it was not available in India. It was a much bigger thing allowed by her and I am grateful to her,” he said.

Recapping the sequence of events, Bagrodia said his diplomatic passport was to expire in February 2015. “A person who has been MP for ten years is eligible for a diplomatic passport. Many ex-MPs still hold diplomatic passports. It is the discretion of the Ministry of External Affairs. It was in July or August that I requested her to extend the validity of my passport.”

“I did not ask for a new passport. I wanted to extend its validity and she said yes. However, she did not do it and I did not pursue further. Actually, my wife had a surgery. She was operated upon and treated in India. I wanted to take her abroad for a check-up and to seek advice of doctors there. I have friends in the US.”

“Since the validity of my diplomatic passport was less than six months, I had requested her to extend it. You are required to be in possession of passports that are valid for more than six months. Since she did not give it, I had my normal passport which I used. The only advantage with a diplomatic passport is that you don’t need to stand in a long queue abroad. Since my wife was not well, I requested her. She did not give but that is her right,” he said.

On whether he had asked any Congress colleague to put in a word for him — the claim made by Swaraj — Bagrodia said: “I know her so well. It was she who gave me permission 15 years ago. Why should I tell anyone? But many friends knew my situation. If anybody requested her, I don’t know.”

“I did not approach her for any illegal thing. Why should I be hurt? She is under attack because of doing something wrong. To save oneself, if one indulges in cheap tactics, what can I do.”

Bagrodia said Swaraj has referred to him as a coal scam accused. “Till today, there is no chargesheet against me. My passport is still valid.” Reminded that he had been summoned as an accused only 24 hours ago by the CBI court, he said: “I am a law-abiding citizen and I will appear before the court and follow the law.”

Incidentally, the Congress reaction earlier in the day was different. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said Swaraj’s remarks showed her “desperation to stay relevant”. His contention was that passports of all coal scam accused are surrendered in court. “It is the height of desperation to stay relevant. The desperation to stay relevant is achieving Himalayan proportions in the BJP… She must know the basics… If you are an accused in a cognizable offence, then your passport is taken away by the court. The passport is made to surrender in court.”

“And if you have to travel abroad, you need permission of the court… When we last checked, Swaraj was shamelessly holding on to her post as External Affairs Minister, despite grave charges against her, and not as judge of the special CBI court. So Santosh Bagrodia does not need her permission,” Surjewala said.

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