Congress drags PM, Shah into Sushma-Lalit controversy

New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) The Congress on Monday dragged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah into the controversy over travel documents given to Lalit Modi, arguing that the prime minister must have been aware of the help being extended to the former IPL commissioner.

“For a prime minister, who single-handedly runs the foreign ministry with the external affairs minister playing a second fiddle, Modi’s complicity in providing favours to a legally established offender and absconder – Lalit Modi, is nothing but open to negative interpretation,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference here.

“Not only did Lalit Modi have a relationship with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, but also with the prime minister and BJP president Amit Shah,” he alleged.

“Incontrovertible facts, documents and details of the ‘Modi Gate Scandal’ emerging since Sunday clearly reflect the active complicity of not only Sushma Swaraj but also point towards the BJP government aiding and abetting a fugitive of Indian law with tacit approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he said.

“(Sushma) Swaraj overruled existing government communications to a foreign country. These communications of the previous UPA governments not only denied travel documents to Lalit Modi but also sought his arrest to hold him accountable to Indian law — so that black money laundered by him could be brought back to the country,” he added.

Surjewala posed 11 questions to the government, including one on what relationship the prime minister and the BJP president have with Lalit Modi.

“Lalit Modi not only had a direct association as also client-counsel relationship with Sushma Swaraj’s family but also appears to have a long standing relationship with the prime minister and the BJP president,” he said.

“It is unprecedented that written communication establishes a quid pro quo between the criminal in question and the minister,” the Congress spokesperson added.

The controversy over Sushma Swaraj’s help to Lalit Modi erupted after Britain’s Sunday Times reported an e-mail exchange between influential Indian-origin Labour MP Keith Vaz and head of UK Visas and Immigration Sarah Rapson, citing the external affairs minister, to facilitate travel documents for Lalit Modi.

Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said she helped Lalit Modi on “humanitarian grounds” over treatment for his cancer-afflicted wife in Portugal.

Surjewala claimed Lalit Modi was squarely involved in a hawala, betting, match-fixing and money laundering racket amounting to nearly Rs.700 crore and was directly in touch with Sushma Swaraj, who has admitted to her acquaintance with him as also of speaking to him on the phone on a number of occasions.

“Shockingly, it is unheard of that the foreign minister of a country calls up envoy of a foreign nation as also the head of a foreign parliament’s ‘Common Home Affairs Select Committee’ to seek favour for a criminal,” he said.

Earlier, Congress leader P.L. Punia termed Sushma Swaraj’s excuses “totally bogus”, and said the minister went out of her way to provide Lalit Modi with help.

The Congress’ youth wing on Monday staged a protest near Sushma Swaraj’s residence in the capital.

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