NEW DELHI -- If Prime Minister Narendra Modi is counting on the Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj controversy blowing over, he might have to devise another strategy for dealing with the biggest scandal to hit his government since he took office.
While Modi has maintained a stony silence about why his foreign minister was helping a fugitive procure travel documents, opposition parties have escalated their attack on the government.
On Monday, the Congress Party dragged Modi under the glare of suspicion by accusing the prime minister of giving Swaraj his "tacit and overt approval."
"It is hard to believe that the prime minister did not know about the help by the external affairs minister," Congress Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told the media. "What is the relationship between Narendra Modi, Amit Shah (BJP chief) and fugitive Lalit Modi."
Surjewala said there were "serious doubts" regarding Modi's "knowledge and complicity" on the help extended to Modi. "Was the prime minister helping a money launderer?," he said. "People are asking whether 'Modi was helping Modi.'"
If these accusations against the prime minister proved correct then Modi would have lost the "moral right" to rule the country, Surjewala said. "The prime minister will have to resign," he said.
On Sunday, Swaraj admitted on Twitter that she had helped Lalit Modi, the former Indian Premier League commissioner, to obtain travel documents on "humanitarian grounds" so that he could give consent for his wife's cancer treatment in Lisbon.
Laws in Portugal do not require consent for an adult. Modi, who is being probed by various agencies for money laundering and FEMA violations, is a fugitive from Indian law.
So far, the Modi government, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have backed Swaraj's justification of "humanitarian" intervention. BJP President Amit Shah said she acted on "humanitarian" grounds which did not raise questions of "morality."
"What she did is right, we justify it and the government stands with her," Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Sunday.
After the political heat spread on Monday, it is unclear if the government will change its stance.
Meanwhile, a message posted on Twitter by former cricketer Kiriti Azad, a lawmaker from the BJP, hinted at an internal rift between the party.
In his tweet, Azad suggests that someone from inside the BJP had leaked the story to the media.