External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been at the centre of a major row over helping scam-tainted former IPL chief Lalit Modi to obtain British travel documents. But Swaraj, who has maintained that she helped Modi on "humanitarian grounds" — to attend to his wife who was undergoing surgery for cancer in Lisbon on August 4, 2014 — has found consistent support from the government and the BJP, which rejected opposition's demands for her resignation over the alleged "impropriety".
Modi, who is wanted in India, has made London his home since 2010 to avoid a probe for the alleged foreign exchange regulation violations in the T20 cricket tournament held in South Africa in 2009. The previous UPA government had revoked his passport and had pressed for his extradition.
Here are some of the political reactions on the story:
- Kumar Vishwas, Aam Aadmi Party leader: "We are not demanding her resignation, but she should clear the air on the matter in public."
- PL Punia, Congress leader: "The way Sushma Swaraj has gone about the issue...it is not in the national interest. Her excuses are totally bogus don't stand the scrutiny of facts. As per the Portuguese law, it is not required to obtain the signature of the husband for any surgical operations."
- Digvijaya Singh, Congress leader: "Sushma Swaraj must resign on moral grounds. The minister backed a person like Lalit Modi, against whom a lookout notice was there... All this is very serious. The external affairs minister is supporting a person who is on the run."
I have greatest regard for Sushmaji. Never expected her to intervene to help a fugitive evading Look Out Notice when he is holidaying !— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) June 15, 2015
She may be a victim of inner BJP fight as mentioned but now the matter is in Public Domain I appeal to her conscience and she should resign— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) June 15, 2015
- CPI (M): "...this is completely unacceptable. There must be a thorough enquiry into all the allegations that have surfaced regarding this affair and consequent punishment under the law must be taken promptly against all concerned. The accountability of the Prime Minister and the Government on this score can be enforced only when the PM, whose prerogative it is, under our constitutional scheme of things to decide on the composition of the Union Cabinet, announces the necessary action on this score," the party said in a statement.
- Pramod Tiwari, Congress leader: "This has happened because Lalit Modi is also a 'Modi'. Hence, the Government is helping him. I strongly condemn it. I condemn BJP's double standards. The government is jointly responsible for this. Swaraj should resign immediately. Since the Government, too, is responsible for this, the PM should apologise to the nation," he said, reported the PTI.
- Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M) General Secretary: First of all, there are very serious charges raised against the External Affairs Minister. But the Prime Minister has been quiet and silent. We are asking him to tell us how this is going to be addressed... So, in this situation, the PM, whose prerogative it is to keep whomever he wishes in the Council (of Ministers), has to answer this."
- Saugata Roy, Trinamool Congress leader: "Swaraj should not have had intervened in the matter and now she must own up to having done something improper in her capacity as a minister," she said.
- Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister: "Sushma Swaraj's life is filled with transparency and honesty. Her honesty is beyond doubt. Whatever she did, she did it on humanitarian grounds. If someone is helps abiding by rules and regulations, then where is the crime in that?" he asked.
- Ram Gopal Yadav, SP General Secretary: "Swaraj helping Lalit Modi to get a UK visa on humanitarian ground is perfectly alright. Political people have to help people in such situations. What is wrong if a man is helped in getting visa for the treatment of his wife abroad... To my knowledge she asked the British authorities to help Lalit Modi as per prescribed rules..." he told the PTI
- Rajnath Singh, Home minister: "We want to make it clear that whatever she has done is right. We justify it and the Government completely stands by her."
- Amit Shah, BJP chief: "Sushmaji has herself clarified. The matter is clear. Lalit Modi had said his wife is suffering from cancer and sought help. She said if British rules permit, then he should be helped. There is no need for any uproar. There is no issue of moral grounds."
- Indresh Kumar, RSS leader: "Sushmaji is full of nationalism and humane nature. Whatever she might have done, would be guided those principals."
- Prashant Bhushan, senior advocate: Sushma Swaraj was the external affairs minister and Lalit Modi at that time was an absconder from the law enforcement authorities of India. And, that is why on the instance of the Indian government the British government had imposed some restriction on his travel. So, she interceded on his behalf to remove that restriction. She interceded with the British government at a time when her daughter was his lawyer," according to the Hindustan Times.
- Mayawati, BSP chief: "We want this matter probed. We will raise it in the Parliament"
- Brinda Karat, CPI (M) leader: "This is unwarranted and unethical."
- D Raja, CPI: "What forced Sushma Swaraj to go out of the way to help an economic offender? She must explain."
- Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress leader: "Nobody will take such a decision without consulting the Prime Minister."
- DP Tripathi, NCP leader: "This is a question of propriety. She (Sushma Swaraj) owes an explanation to the country."
(With inputs from the agencies)