Congress fires fresh salvo at Raje, Rajasthan BJP defends her

New Delhi/Jaipur, June 26 (IANS) Stepping up attack for resignation of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Congress on Friday alleged that she had “financial dealings” with former IPL chief Lalit Modi but the BJP’s state unit continued to defend her strongly.

With the allegations faced by Raje threatening to derail the monsoon session of parliament beginning next month, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah on the issue.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is also facing demands for her resignation over her help in getting British travel documents to Lalit Modi, who is being probed in India for alleged tax evasion.

Meanwhile, providing a new twist, Lalit Modi tweeted on Friday that he had run into Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s daughter Priyanka and her husband Robert Vadra in a London restaurant last year, triggering demands from the BJP for an explanation from the Congress chief.

The Congress, which held two press conferences in New Delhi to build pressure for resignation of Raje, alleged that she had “direct financial dealing with a fugitive”.

“The chief minister is a business partner with a fugitive,” said Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar, claiming Raje and Lalit Modi had shares in Niyant Hotels Pvt Ltd, a company belonging to her son and BJP MP Dushyant Singh.

“She does not have right to stay in the office for a single day. I want to ask the BJP if she does not resign now when will she,” Kumar asked.

He also targeted Narendra Modi over allegations surrounding Raje, saying that “he had promised not to allow corruption”.

Jaitley, in his meetings with Shah and Narendra Modi, discussed the party’s strategy in view of opposition’s unrelenting attack on Raje.

A party source said the leadership has decided to back Raje while tightening the noose on Lalit Modi in the cases faced by him.

Jaitley had returned from a week-long visit to the US on Thursday and had told reporters in answer to questions on Raje and Sushma Swaraj that there is “nobody who is tainted”.

In Jaipur, Rajasthan BJP chief Ashok Parnami and state minister Rajendra Rathore, referring to the document cited by the Congress as evidence, said it only had Raje’s signatures on the last page and was signed when Lalit Modi had not been declared a fugitive.

“It is a draft (of deposition). It has no meaning. As a proof, it has neither benefited Lalit Modi or his family… the document has not been produced in a court by the chief minister,” Parnami said.

Rathore said that the entire BJP in Rajasthan as also the central leadership were with Raje. “She is our undisputed leader,” he said.

Raje’s office also came down heavily on TV channels saying that “some of them are showing baseless and untrue reports” pertaining to the chief minister. “Today also, some of the channels are showing baseless, misleading and unsubstantiated reports,” a statement issued by the press advisor to the chief minister said. His office had issued a statement on similar lines on Thursday.

“The news that signature of 120 MLAs have been taken in support of Raje is completely untrue,” the statement said.

In his tweet, Lalit Modi said: “Happy to meet the Gandhi family in London. I had run into Robert (Vadra) and Priyanka separately in a restaurant.”

He said the couple was with Timmy Sarna, who is with DLF Brands Ltd. “If I remember correctly, it was last year and the year before. Doubt either reported it to anyone. They were in power then,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala defended the Vadras, saying: “Looking at each other in a resturant is neither a crime nor morally improper.”

But the BJP sprang into attack mode.

“The Congress must explain. Why is Mrs Gandhi silent,” asked party spokesperson Sambit Patra.

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