Lalit Modi issue: No holds barred fight in Lok Sabha

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) A blast from the past and no-holds-barred attacks marked the Lok Sabha discussion on the Lalit Modi controversy on Wednesday as Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj aggressively proclaimed her innocence and attacked the “transgressions” of Congress leaders.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi asked Swaraj “how much money she and her family received from Lalit Modi”.

She said the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi allowed Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to get away from the country after the Bhopal gas tragedy of 1984 because of a “quid pro quo arrangement with the United States”.

She claimed Rajiv Gandhi struck a deal with the US government for the release of his “childhood friend Adil Shahryar” who was awarded a 35-year jail in a federal prison there.

Asking Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi to take stock of his family history by reading up during one of his “long holidays”, she asked him to go ask his mother, “Momma, how much money did we take from Quattrocchi?”

Swaraj said this in reply to Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the minister’s family received money from former IPL chief Lalit Modi in a case of “quid pro quo”. He demanded to know how much money Swaraj’s family received from Lalit Modi.

Rahul Gandhi had his replies ready and said Swaraj had held his hand in parliament on Tuesday and asked him why he was upset with her.

“Main Sushma-ji ki bahut izzat karta hoon. Kal unhone mera haath pakad kar mujhse kaha ke Rahul beta tum mujhse kyun naraaz ho? (She held my hand and asked why I was angry with her?). I told her I was not angry. I looked into her eyes and said I was merely speaking the truth. She could not look me in the eyes,” Rahul said amid thumping of desks from opposition benches and loud protests from the treasury benches.

He then went on to take a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was not present in the House to reply, which the Congress was demanding, and over which they later staged a walkout even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley began presenting the government’s reply.

“Today, he (PM) does not have the guts to sit here in this chair,” the Congress leader remarked.

He then went on to ask Sushma Swaraj if she had told the prime minister that she had “helped Lalit Modi”.

“Aapki raksha bolne se hogi. Aap bina darre bolein (Your safety is in speaking. Speak without fear),” he told the external affairs minister.

Jaitley stepped in to defend Sushma Swaraj with a direct attack on Rahul Gandhi, while citing cases to prove that Lalit Modi was not the only Indian in whose case the foreign minister might have intervened.

“The difficulty with Rahul Gandhi is that he is an expert without knowledge,” Jaitley said amid laughter from the treasury benches.

“You are fond of saying there were three monkeys, but don’t make a monkey out of the whole nation…. Without any issue, you don’t let the government work because you ran a failed government,” he said, adding that things were improving after long and that’s why the Congress wanted to “stall the growth story”.

Jaitley said the Congress was protesting to block important bills in parliament. “My total sympathy is with Sushma-ji since she is a scapegoat.”

He said some people and their children had to earn a living unlike others. “For generations, a family that has dominated the politics of this country have not worked for a living. They have learnt the art of living comfortably without working,” Jaitely said, while adding that “some of us have not learnt that art”.

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