NEW DELHI — Activists of the National Students' Union of India (NSUI) on Tuesday staged a protest outside the residence of Sushma Swaraj as the Congress party stepped up its offensive against the Foreign Minister who is accused of helping a former chairman of a cash-rich sports league obtain British travel documents.
NSUI activists clashed with police outside Swaraj's Safdarjung Lane residence in the national capital as the call for her sacking grew. The Congress Party showed no signs of relenting as it cornered the Modi government over the issue and demanded to know why Swaraj kept her colleagues in the dark and took an individual call to help former IPL boss Lalit Modi, whose passport had been revoked by Indian authorities in a corruption case.
Swaraj has denied all allegations of corruption and said she was helping Modi on "humanitarian grounds" as he needed to visit his ailing wife in Portugal. Modi was suspended as the head of the Indian Premier League in 2010 following allegations of graft.
"There should be an immediate investigation into the case of not only the absconder (Lalit Modi), but also Sushma Swaraj's family for offering him help. We will continue to protest until Swaraj resigns," NSUI spokesperson Amrish Ranjan Pandey told ANI.
Meanwhile NDTV quoted unnamed BJP sources as saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will back Swaraj.
Swaraj said British MP Keith Vaz had spoken to her on the issue at the time. Vaz, who is facing an inquiry in the UK over the role he played in Modi receiving his travel papers, said that he had checked with the Indian Government before taking any action and added that he had received a 'no objection' from New Delhi.
"The BJP, the External Affairs Minister and the whole government have come out to save an accused of the Enforcement Directorate. The suit boot ki sarkar is doing everything to save an economic offender," Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar told reporters.
"When they were no specific queries from authorities from the UK, why did the government make this unacceptable concession? Tearjerkers say that this was done on humanitarian grounds, but this is a false claim by the EAM. There was no invasive surgery on Modi's wife, yet this emergency request for travel document was made. Lalit Modi was holidaying in a place called Ibiza when his passport was restored. But the government did not appeal," Congress leader Anand Sharma said at a press briefing.
"Can there be one set of rules for UPA ministers and a different set for NDA ministers? [Before coming to power at the Centre], Narendra Modi himself pressed for resignations, even if there was a shadow of doubt on a single UPA minister. Why is the government protecting [Lalit] Modi? The Prime Minister has to speak. We demand a thorough investigation in this affair, not restricted to travel documents, under the supervision of the Supreme Court," he added.
"Rajnath Singh is the Home Minister and he has all the intelligence inputs for all illegal offenders, yet instead he is endorsing the EAM. What have the ED and other agencies done since May 26, 2014 to apprehend Lalit Modi?" he said.
Meanwhile, BJP said the opposition was "frustrated" and had shown its "complete bankruptcy" by using a "non-issue" to target Swaraj.
Referring to Congress releasing photos showing Lalit Modi with Swaraj besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chief Amit Shah, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the picture was five years old when Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and also the head of the state cricket association with Shah being his deputy in the board.
Terming as "baseless" the charges against Swaraj, he said that Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son and vice-president Rahul Gandhi have been clicked "practically with all coal scam accused, 2G (spectrum allocation) scam accused and Aircel-Maxis scam accused," besides those accused of CWG scam.
"They (Congress) are bereft of ideas. They want to make a non-issue an issue which will never become an issue... it shows the complete bankruptcy of Congress," Javadekar told reporters.
"Congress has lost the plot and is frustrated because people of the ocuntry have reposed their faith in Modi Government and Congress cannot digest this," he said. (With inputs from agencies)