New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj remained at the centre of a political storm on Wednesday as new documents released allegedly showed that former IPL chief Lalit Modi offered a job to her husband Swaraj Kaushal.
The Congress promptly asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his “deafening” silence on the issue.
“Lalit Modi made an offer (of job) to a family member of a minister. Why did he do so? We want the prime minister to inquire,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said here at a press conference.
“We have demanded that all documents available in the case must be placed in public domain. We should all know how Lalit Modi was being helped and why was he being helped even as a fugitive,” he added.
Documents released on Wednesday allegedly show that Lalit Modi offered a job to Swaraj Kaushal months after the External Affairs Minister helped the tainted businessman obtain travel documents in the United Kingdom.
After the controversy erupted, Swaraj Kaushal accepted that he was offered a position by Lalit Modi.
“I am a lawyer for Lalit Modi for over 20 years. I was offered to be alternate director on Indofil Board, but I did not give my consent,” Swaraj Kaushal told the media.
Continuing its attack on the NDA government, the Congress took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi too.
“The Prime Minister owes it to the nation to break his silence on the issue,” senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said at another press conference.
“You (PM) are maintaining a deafening silence. They (BJP) are trying to brazen it out. We demand that the silence should be broken. It is a situation wherein more you try to hide, the more the truth comes out,” Singhvi said.
Singhvi said the fact that Swaraj Kaushal did not take up the offered job was not relevant. “To have a fugitive, to have the foreign minister’s husband being offered a job is enough,” he said.
“Does this justify the prime minister’s silence? Different ministers are saying there is no stigma. There is no guilt. Who is giving this certificate of innocence? The BJP ministers,” the Congress leader said.
The BJP, however, continued to defend Sushma Swaraj.
“An email is sent in a personal capacity to a professional appointee who is a lawyer in this case, which is Swaraj Kaushal, and he has not even accepted it. If this is the Congress’ idea of impropriety, then they need to reflect on all cases that happen every day in the country,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told IANS.
“The Congress has run out of ideas and is desperately clutching at straws,” he added.
Earlier, Surjewala asked Sushma Swaraj to come clean on the Lalit Modi issue.
“Sushma Swaraj must tell the people of the country how many times she has met Lalit Modi or if any of her family members had been in touch with the fugitive,” he said.
Surjewala demanded that the BJP government make public all letters exchanged between the previous UPA government and authorities in Britain over the Lalit Modi issue.
Demanding the resignation of Sushma Swaraj, Surjewala reminded the BJP that “during the UPA government’s tenure, the Congress got then foreign ministers Madhav Singh Solanki and Natwar Singh to resign on moral grounds”.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said that disruptions were expected in the upcoming monsoon session of parliament as major opposition parties appeared united over the Lalit Modi issue.
“Since all the major opposition parties have come out against the Lalit Modi issue, there is going to be an uproar on the issue in the coming session,” Yechury said during an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC).
Meanwhile, Lalit Modi dragged BJP leader Varun Gandhi into the row. He claimed that Varun Gandhi met him in London “a few years ago” and offered to “settle everything” with Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Though Varun Gandhi accepted meeting Lalit Modi, the BJP leader’s aide denied having struck any deal with him.
“Varun-ji met Lalit Modi in London along with MLA Jagat Singh from Bharatpur, Rajasthan, three years ago. He was in London and the meeting was only by chance. There was no kind of deal or discussion over his help,” an aide to Varun Gandhi told IANS, requesting anonymity.
Lalit Modi on late Tuesday alleged in a series of tweets that Varun Gandhi met him and offered to settle everything with his aunt Sonia Gandhi.