Monsoon Session Day 4: Apologise To Sushma Swaraj Or Face Lawsuit, BJP Tells Rahul Gandhi

24/07/2015 12:51 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
PRAKASH SINGH via Getty Images
Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi (C) speaks to the media as he arrives at the parliament building in New Delhi on July 22, 2015. The three-week long monsoon session of the Indian parliament began on July 22, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) intent on discussing three bills land acquisition, goods and services (GST) tax, and revision of labour laws. AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH SINGH (Photo credit should read PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- A day after Rahul Gandhi described External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as a "criminal" for her involvement in the Lalit Modi scandal, the central government hit back by threatening to file a defamation suit if the Congress Party vice president doesn't apologise.

Describing Gandhi's words as "unfortunate and undemocratic," Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said, "I am demanding that Rahul Gandhi make an apology to the country because he is not only defaming Sushma Swaraj, he is defaming the foreign ministry of the country."

Gadkari said that Swaraj had not violated any law or the constitution, and she was not embroiled in any corruption or illegal activity.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu criticised Gandhi's remarks as "immature."

On Wednesday, Gandhi described Swaraj as a "criminal," who had helped fugitive Lalit Modi to procure travel documents from the British authorities, last year, while he was being investigated by the Indian government for financial irregularities and money laundering in connection with the IPL cricket tournament.

"Sushma ji has done a criminal act. She is a minister of the government and the whole country knows she has done a criminal act," Gandhi told the media. "If you do a criminal act, you go to jail."

READ: Monsoon Session Day 3 - Rahul Gandhi Says Modi's Promises Are 'Gas Coming Out Of A Balloon'

Defending Gandhi, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said that criticising the government is not defamation. "And if this is defamation, then what the BJP has said over the past 10 years, every MP can be slapped with a hundred cases," he said.

Since Tuesday, the Congress Party has blocked parliamentary proceedings while demanding the resignations of Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, who is also embroiled in the Lalit Modi scandal, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.

Swaraj has admitted to helping Lalit Modi on "humanitarian grounds" so that he could visit his wife while she was undergoing treatment for cancer in Lisbon, but the foreign minister bypassed established procedures to handles requests from fugitives. The cricket-magnate has also said that Swaraj's husband and daughter have provided him free legal services for several years, and he has "close" relations with their family.

Meanwhile, Raje backed Lalit Modi's immigration application in 2011, when she was Leader of the Opposition, on the condition that her support would be hidden from the Indian government.

Vyapam is a massive scam which involves politicians and government officials allowing impostors to take exams for government jobs in Madhya Pradesh, and manipulating exam results, in exchange of vast sums of money. Several people connected with scam have died in mysterious circumstances since 2010.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party has offered a discussion on these controversies, the Opposition has demanded resignations before entering into any debate. Today, BJP leaders sat on dharna near the Mahatma Gandhi statue near the parliament building to protest against the disruptions over the past four days.

Political rivals made jibes over the Modi government resorting to protests. Aam Aadmi Party's Kumar Vishwas quipped that perhaps they were appealing to U.S. President Barack Obama.

But the Opposition remains unmoved. "There should be action, action means resignation and then discussion," Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said on Friday.

The BJP has also retaliated by highlighting corruption cases involving Congress leaders. This week, they accused the Uttarkhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat of a liquor scam during the 2013 floods in the state, and the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh of tax fraud.

Around four minutes after Lok Sabha convened today, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the lower house till Monday as the opposition continued its call for resignations. The Rajya Sabha was adjourned in the afternoon in the midst of chaos in the upper house.

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