15/06/2015 8:49 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

How Amit Shah And Narendra Modi Decided To Defend Sushma Swaraj In Lalit Modi Controversy

SAJJAD HUSSAIN via Getty Images
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses a press conference in New Delhi on May 31, 2015. Swaraj held a press conference to mark the first anniversary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. AFP PHOTO / SAJJAD HUSSAIN (Photo credit should read SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Before Narendra Modi's landslide win in the general elections in May 2014, Sushma Swaraj had opposed his candidature for the post and had supported other contenders.

She had also demanded current BJP president Amit Shah's resignation when he was the home minister in Gujarat and reported to then chief minister Modi. Shah had been controversial for his alleged involvement in fake encounters. He has since been exonerated by courts.

Swaraj, the opposition leader during the last UPA rule, would have been a possible candidate too, if the party had got less votes and other parties in a possible coalition had insisted on a less controversial candidate.

But Modi reached out to her after his historic win, and made her the foreign minister. Swaraj has kept a low profile, while doing her bit to reach out to other countries as part of Modi's big push towards deeper diplomatic relations with countries around the world, from the United States to Australia.

And now the two people she had opposed the most in the BJP are in the top two powerful positions in the party, and have strongly supported her case amidst allegations that she helped Lalit Modi, the former Indian Premier League commissioner facing arrest in India, to get travel documents in the United Kingdom. The story was first reported by the Sunday Times in London, and has created a furore in the Indian media.

Shah, the party president, and Prime Minister Modi were among the first people Swaraj spoke to after news of the controversy broke, according to this report. Shah then consulted home minister Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley, before issuing a public statement defending her actions, and deciding how the party would defend Swaraj.

While the opposition has asked her to quit on moral grounds, Shah said such grounds do not exist. "There were no moral grounds involved. The help was based on humanitarian grounds," he said.

"She talked to the British MP in a capacity where she asked if the British rules would permit it, and only then help should be granted. So, I don't feel like there is a need to create a ruckus (on the issue)," Shah said in an statement. He also took a swipe at the opposition Congress party, drawing comparisons with the Bofors scandal and the Bhopal gas tragedy. "This is not like helping Quattrocchi escape the country or giving permission to Anderson to leave the country after the Bhopal disaster," he added.

Home Minister Singh added to that saying "What Sushma ji has done, it is right. I want to clarify that the government stands with her."

Later, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which has had strained relations with Swaraj before, also came out in support saying that her actions to help Lalit Modi were guided by her "humane" nature and "nationalistic" spirit.

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