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2 & 282

There is a cost to dismissing Swaraj, Raje for the Modi government. But the cost of letting them stay will be higher.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: June 27, 2015 12:00:03 am
Lalit Modi, Vasundhara Raje, lalit modi row, raje lalit modi row, Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Modi, lalit modi controversy, bjp government, nda government, lalit modi travel row, lalit modi uk travel controversy, lalit modi raje controversy, Rajasthan bjp, india news Former IPL chief Lalit Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

In this moment, the right thing for the Narendra Modi government to do is to ask External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to step down from their office. There is enough evidence of impropriety in both cases. Swaraj, as Union minister, cut through due process to extend a helping hand to an individual against whom there are serious allegations of money laundering and corruption. She did this even as, in a plain illustration of conflict of interest, her daughter and husband continued to be part of Lalit Modi’s legal team. Raje, as Leader of the Opposition in Rajasthan, signed an affidavit supporting Lalit Modi and dismissing the charges against him as politically motivated — notably, her own party’s government at the Centre has refrained from issuing Lalit Modi a clean chit — while insisting that her statement be kept secret from Indian authorities. There is little doubt that both Swaraj and Raje have gravely erred and that as public figures who hold ministerial office and the people’s trust, they must be held accountable. But it is equally clear that, for now, Prime Minister Modi has weighed the risks and benefits and calculated that the cost of asking them to go is heavier than the price of letting them stay. The PM needs to redo his math.

By letting Raje and Swaraj stay, by defending them on technical grounds or legalese, the Modi government treads on thinning ice. It is true that if Swaraj-Raje go, it will embolden the Opposition against a government that has a majority of 282. But if they don’t go, the government will still be scarred — more grievously perhaps. If through the first year of its rule, the most serious charge against the Modi government was that it was allowing the Hindutva “fringe” to speak too often and too loud, the Swaraj-Raje affair, given that it reaches to the heart of the BJP-NDA, will be a heavier millstone to carry for a government that has four more years. It is not just that the impending monsoon session, when Parliament is expected to consider crucial legislation such as the bills on land acquisition and GST, will be washed out. More, the NDA would have given up the moral ground it so aggressively sought to appropriate in its fight against the scam-tainted UPA. It can be argued that politics is not always conducted on the high ground. But it will be difficult for a young government with a long way to go to lose that argument and that shield so early in its tenure.

When the UPA was in power and the BJP insisted on the resignations of Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal even though there was no legal case against either minister, it was raising questions of propriety — rightly so. Its splitting of legal hairs now, and implied disdain of the propriety argument, will return to haunt.

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First published on: 27-06-2015 at 12:00:00 am
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