NEW DELHI — The Congress Party stepped up its attack on the BJP, which is mired in a fresh controversy on Wednesday, after media reports indicated that former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi allegedly offered Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's husband a spot in the board of one of his companies.
According to reports, Modi allegedly asked Supreme Court lawyer Swaraj Kaushal to serve as his back-up on the board of one of his companies, Indofil, days after Sushma Swaraj helped him secure British travel documents.
The opposition said it was "totally irrelevant" that Kaushal did not eventually accept the offer.
"There is now clear material to show that Lalit Modi offered a job to close relative of Foreign Minister," said Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi. "The fact whether that job was taken or not is totally irrelevant."
Does it not directly establish a nexus? Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Congress pic.twitter.com/05LRFseWaj— ANI (@ANI_news) July 1, 2015
Another Congress leader PC Chacko said the Directorship of a company is only offered to a person "in whom one has abundant confidence", insinuating a deep nexus between Modi and Kaushal, who has been his lawyer for over 20 years.
Kaushal himself, meanwhile, has accepted that he was made an offer, but clarified that he never accepted it. "I was offered to be Alternate Director on Indofil Board. I did not give my consent. The request was withdrawn," he said to ANI.
Indofil's chairman and managing director Krishan Kumar Modi also clarified that Kaushal's name was never considered for the post of director, adding that the appointment was a "mere suggestion" by Modi.
"Lalit Modi had proposed that Swaraj Kaushal be given the post of an alternate director, a proposal that he later withdrew. Thus the board of directors never considered his name. We have never had any discussions with Kaushal over the same," KK Modi told ANI.
Lalit Modi withdrew, so the board never considered that request. That’s the current situation: KK Modi (CMD INDOFIL) pic.twitter.com/WlNRBar41f— ANI (@ANI_news) July 1, 2015
However Congress isn't ready to lose their upperhand in a hurry. Seeking explanation from the government on several issues on the entire controversy that the media has hashtagged #Lalitgate, Singhvi said: "There is a complete direct factual web of deceit and avoidance and at the highest assurance of Govt."
"You are having on one hand deafening silence and on the other casual clean chits," he said, referring to BJP's support of Swaraj as well as Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, who have both been connected with helping Modi.
The Congress have put forth six demands including making public minutes of a meeting it claimed Swaraj had with UK High Commissioner James Bevan in which she had favoured grant of travel documents to Lalit Modi.
The party also wanted the Prime Minister to answer whether any Union Minister's relative received any job offer from Lalit Modi recently. Congress' chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala claimed that Swaraj has herself admitted that the meeting with the UK High Commissioner had taken place.
"Minutes of the meeting in which help for Lalit Modi was sought have been recorded. They are with the External Affairs Ministry and they should be made public," he told reporters.
Surjewala also demanded that any communication by Sushma Swaraj with Bevan or UK Foreign Minister on the matter be released.
He wanted the Prime Minister to explain whether any relative of a Union Minister was made any job offer by Lalit Modi recently and what was the nature and type of the job offer.
Insisting that such an offer was indeed made, he said that there was no mention of it on the website of the PM though rules of government business demand that any minister must keep the PM informed about any such offer.
Demanding sacking of Swaraj, he reminded the Prime Minister that the Congress had adhered to the "highest standards of propriety" by asking for resignation of Madhavsinh Solanki and Natwar Singh when allegations were made against them while they were External Affairs Minister.
He said "moral and constitutional propriety" demands that the Prime Minister ask Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to resign.
He also demanded resignation of HRD Minister Smriti Irani who is embroiled in a controversy over her educational qualifications. On charges made by Lalit Modi against Congress leaders, Surjewala said the former IPL chief was trying to divert attention from the Congress demand of resignation of Swaraj and Raje.
"The 'chhota Modi' is helping 'bada Modi'. He has become the sankatmochak (troubleshooter).... The 'chhota Modi' is acting at the instance of someone within the government and the BJP.... These are preposterous allegations.
"He is trying to divert attention from the demand of resignation," the spokesperson said, asserting that the Congress will "not lose focus and will not relent and will not stop".
Lalit Modi could make offer to anyone in Cong party too .Swaraj Kaushal has not even accepted the offer: GVLN Rao,BJP pic.twitter.com/BQjSWHP7Ey— ANI (@ANI_news) July 1, 2015
The monsoon session of Parliament is just 20 days away and is expected to be a stormy affair if the Lalitgate row continued.
Other demands by Surjewala included release of all correspondence made by the Congress-led UPA with the UK over the issue of extradition of Lalit Modi and the letters written by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram to the UK authorities on the issue.
The Congress leader said that Swaraj should also make a full disclosure of how many times she had telephonic talk with the "fugitive", how many times she or any member of her family have met him or have been in touch with e-mail and other communication.
Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said that Narendra Modi, who once spoke of "scam-free India" was in "maunyog" (silence) despite the fact that he has promised to the people to provide corruption-free and transparent governance.
(with agency inputs)