Jaitley backs Sushma, says allegations baseless

New Delhi, June 16 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday came out in support of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, terming all allegations against her in the Lalit Modi issue as “baseless”, and said the entire BJP and the government are of one opinion on the matter.

“Let me clarify, all the allegations are baseless. The minister and the party chief (Amit Shah) have given statements…she acted bona fide with good intentions. The whole government and party share the same view on this. There is no doubt on this,” Jaitley said, speaking on the issue two days after his other ministerial colleagues came out in defence of Sushma Swaraj.

He made a brief press statement on the Jammu and Kashmir flood rehabilitation along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, after which he was pressed with questions on the issue concerning issuance of travel documents to Lalit Modi, former IPL cricket commissioner who is charged with financial impropriety.

“Our ministers are capable of taking decisions, and all decisions taken by the government are the collective responsibility of the government,” he said.

There was speculation as to why Jaitley, who also holds the information and broadcasting portfolio, had not spoken out in favour of his senior colleague.

Social media has been rife with speculation that the leak to the media of the email exchanges between Sushma Swaraj, Lalit Modi and Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz was the job of an “insider”, especially with Sushma Swaraj getting top rating for her good work as minister.

At the press conference, a poser was brushed aside when a scribe asked what could be the meaning of “Aastin ka saanp” (traitor), which has become one of the popular hashtags on Twitter on the episode and who could it be.

To questions on the Enforcement Directorate notice to Lalit Modi, who has been living in London since 2010, after the external affairs ministry revoked his passport, Jaitley said that the “ED has investigated several cases against the person concerned; so far show cause notices have been issued in a large number of cases. These are quasi judicial findings of the ED”.

He added that the ED has issued show cause notices to Modi in 15 out of the 16 cases and “in one case the investigation is still pending”.

To a question on the blue corner notice served on Modi, Jaitley said there is confusion about the shades of blue. He clarified that the blue corner notice served by the Interpol is a dark shade, whereas the notice served by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence on instructions of the ED is of light blue colour.

He said the blue corner notice served against Modi by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence at the request of the ED was issued in 2010, “and that notice continues to be valid”.

To a question on whether the passport of Modi would be impounded, he said that it was the matter concerning the passport authority.

To the Congress party’s charge that Sushma Swaraj could not be accused of acting alone and that it was a collective responsibility, Jaitley said that “all are on board on decisions taken and whatever decisions are taken, we are collectively responsible for it”.

Sushma Swaraj on Sunday admitted to helping Lalit Modi on “humanitarian grounds” to procure documents to travel to Portugal for treatment of his cancer-stricken wife in July last year.

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