Shortly after the one-year mark of the Narendra Modi government, which the BJP highlighted for being scam-free, the party suddenly finds itself boxed into a corner, with four of its leaders--coincidentally all women--under a cloud.
Allegations of corruption and impropriety surrounding Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Pankaja Munde have left the party spokespersons working overtime, while Smriti Irani's legal difficulties over her incorrect educational credentials in her election affidavit is threatening to escalate. The Prime Minister's resounding silence in these matters has allowed the opposition to call him 'Maun' Modi or silent Modi, a barb that Modi himself had used against former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As things stand, the monsoon session of Parliament looks to be in need of major and urgent salvation.
The Congress has vowed to take the battle to the PM's doorstep, while the Aam Aadmi Party, singed by their own fake degree controversy in the recent past, has grabbed at the opportunity around a court allowing a petition against Smriti Irani's false statements. It has sought her resignation in 72 hours. Or else they are threatening to unleash an avalanche of street protests in Delhi, a matter in which they have proven formidable capacity.
Here are the four controversies that is troubling the BJP:
1. Sushma Swaraj:Leaked emails showed India's foreign minister Swaraj intervening with British authorities in 2014 to enable disgraced cricket tycoon Lalit Modi (no relation to the prime minister) to travel to Portugal. Modi, a fugitive in India, got the permit. She did this while her daughter was Modi's counsel in Delhi high court trying to get his revoked passport back. A month after Swaraj's intervention, the court decided in Modi's favour, and the government did not appeal the matter, which it fought for five years. The party has said it stands by the minister. PM has been silent.
2. Smriti Irani: A Delhi court has accepted a complaint against union human resource minister Smriti Irani that says she misrepresented her educational qualifications. The case filed by freelance writer Ahmer Khan, says that Irani made contradictory claims in documents filed with the Election Commission. She had claimed to have a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2004, but subsequently filed in 2011 and 2014 that she only studied the first year of a B.Com course.
3. Vasundhara Raje: The Rajasthan chief minister is also in the Lalit Modi dragnet, after a letter bearing her signature supporting Lalit Modi's immigration application in the UK emerged. Modi had fled India in 2010, citing threats to his family, after the Enforcement Directorate filed a case against him related to corruption in the Indian Premier League. She has so far been mum on the matter, while television news has reported that the party has sought a clarification from her. The situation is delicate as Raje could easily break the party and start a local unit if it forces her hand. So far, BJP leader Nitin Gadkari has issued a "clean chit". The PM has been silent.
4. Pankaja Munde: BJP's Munde, a minister in Maharashtra, cleared government purchases worth Rs 206 crore through 24 resolutions on a single day, without inviting tenders for any of them. Opposition parties have alleged impropriety, and demanded an investigation. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has defended her saying that "prima facie" she seemed to have done nothing wrong.
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