Lalit Modi Scandal: PM Silent Two Weeks After Political Controversy Erupts

28/06/2015 4:30 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wipes his sweat with a scarf made in the colors of Indian tricolor as he performs yoga along with thousands of Indians on Rajpath, in New Delhi, India, Sunday, June 21, 2015. Millions of yoga enthusiasts are bending their bodies in complex postures across India as they take part in a mass yoga program to mark the first International Yoga Day.(AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

NEW DELHI -- Even as opposition parties ratchet up pressure on the NDA government to take action against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keeping up his deafening silence over the Lalit Modi scandal, which erupted two weeks ago.

It was anticipated that Modi would touch on the subject during his radio programme, 'Mann Ki Baat" on Sunday morning, but the prime minister completely bypassed the controversy, choosing to focus on the success of the International Yoga Day as well issues like watershed management and insurance programs for the poor.

Modi did not address the controversy while speaking at a public function in Ranchi on Sunday afternoon, and he had to cancel his trip to Varanasi because of heavy rains.

So far, the BJP has ruled out resignation for Swaraj and Raje for helping Lalit Modi after the former IPL commissioner was being investigated for money laundering, and he was regarded a fugitive from Indian law.

Swaraj, who helped the cricket tycoon secure travel documents from the U.K. without informing the External Affairs Ministry, claims that she intervened on "humanitarian" grounds so that he could attend his wife's cancer surgery in Portugal in August 2014. The travel document, however, was issued for 2016.

Lalit Modi has also said that Swaraj's husband and daughter provided him free legal services, and he has close family ties with them.

The BJP is also standing behind Raje, who backed Lalit Modi's immigration plea when she was Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan in 2011. She also asked that her support for the former IPL chief be hidden from Indian authorities, and she derided the UPA government before British authorities.

Modi's silence today seemed especially jarring in the aftermath of remarks made by veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani, who said that political probity is essential, and so he resigned as a lawmaker in 1996 when his name cropped up in the Hawala scam.

READ: I Quit Over Hawala Because I Listened To My Conscience

READ: Raje's Signature Supporting Lalit Modi's Immigration Plea

While Advani did not comment on the Swaraj-Raje affair, his remarks are being viewed as a veiled jibe at the Modi government. This is the second time that the senior BJP leader has spoken against government in the past ten days, and his intervention has surprised those who see him as close to Swaraj.

"For a politician, to command people's trust is the biggest responsibility. What morality demands that is 'rajdharma' and need to maintain probity in public life," he said.

READ: Advani Makes 5 Important Points About The Indian State

Congress Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad picked on Advani's remarks to taunt the Modi government.

During the past two weeks, however, the BJP has attempted to put together a defence by questioning the authenticity of documents implicating Raje, and arguing that she acting in her personal capacity while helping Lalit Modi.

"Every human being wears multiple hats. Ms Raje gave the statement in her personal capacity, not in her capacity as Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan," BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told NDTV on Friday.

Citing sources, NDTV reported that Raje has defended her position to senior BJP leaders by arguing that she had a change of heart after signing the statement and that is why she did not depose in favour.

Without a deposition, the news channel reported, the affidavit amounts to only "a proposed witness statement... intent, but not action."

On Wednesday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh ruled out their resignations. "There will be no resignation of ministers," he said. "We are the NDA, not the UPA."

On Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said "nobody is tainted."

Meanwhile, Lalit Modi, who is on a tweeting spree this week, praised Modi on the social media platform.

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