NEW DELHI -- In a statement, which seems to contradict her previous stand on the Lalit Modi scandal, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today that she had never requested the British government to provide Lalit Modi with travel papers, but her voice was drowned out by a volley of shouts from the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
"For the previous seven days, I have sat here to speak on the issue. But there is no debate, there is only disruption," Swaraj said in the upper house of parliament.
"I have never requested the British government for Lalit Modi's travel papers. I never asked the British government for any favour," she said.
The tenth day of the monsoon session today kicked off with the routine disruptions which have marred both houses since parliament convened on July 21.
The Congress Party has demanded resignations of Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for helping cricket magnate Lalit Modi, a fugitive, who is being investigated by Indian agencies for money laundering and financial irregularities connected with the Indian Premier League tournament.
The Opposition has also asked for the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
Ruling out resignations, the Bharatiya Janata Party has offered to debate all these controversies in parliament. The ruling party has also attempted to weaken the Congress Party's position by isolating it within the Opposition. But with crucial bills pending in parliament for the Modi government, and time running out for this session, the BJP called for an all-party meet on Monday to find a way out of the logjam.
A resolution, however, seems unlikely as both sides are digging in their heels. The meeting ended on Monday afternoon without any breakthrough.
Swaraj's statement in parliament today also seemed to contradict her previous stand on the Lalit Modi scandal. Shortly after the scandal broke on June 14, the foreign minister admitted to helping Lalit Modi procure travel documents on "humanitarian grounds" so that he could visit his wife while she was undergoing cancer treatment in August 2014.
Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that "British Government should examine the request of— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 14, 2015
Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi,— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 14, 2015
Rising to her defence, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today that Swaraj had not done anything immoral or illegal, but merely consulted with the British government if Lalit Modi could be allowed to travel considering that his wife had cancer.
Nitin Gadkari: Sushmaji has not given anything in writing, only spoke on the phone on visa. There was nothing wrong pic.twitter.com/8334EUeDTP— ANI (@ANI_news) August 3, 2015
Meanwhile, the BJP once again demanded an apology from Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi for calling Swaraj a "criminal," who should go to jail. Describing these remarks as "childish," Gadkari suggested that Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, a "mature" leader, should apologise on her son's behalf.
Earlier in the day, the Congress Party president attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his "maun vrat" over recent controversies to hit BJP.
"Champion of 'Mann Ki Baat' has retreated into the maun vrat," she said at the Congress Parliamentary Party meet today.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also said that Modi has waited too long to address these controversies.