New Delhi: On Thursday evening, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley returned from the US and defined the ruling BJP’s stance on the Vasundhara Raje controversy. “There is nobody who is tainted please,” Mr Jaitley said at the Delhi airport.
The party, sources have told NDTV, will back the Rajasthan Chief Minister, who is caught in a growing political storm over supporting disgraced cricket tycoon Lalit Modi’s immigration appeal to UK in 2011. Another senior union minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “As far as party is concerned, everything is happening positively.”
In defence of Ms Raje, a powerful regional leader, top government sources denied the Congress charge that she helped a “fugitive” in Lalit Modi. A senior leader argued that Mr Modi faces charges under the Foreign Exchange Maintenance Act or FEMA, which does not have provisions for arrest and so Lalit Modi cannot be called a fugitive.
Eager to distance the party and government from Lalit Modi, another senior leader said the BJP-led NDA government had “inherited this fault” from the UPA regime and is keen to amend it soon.
The government, he said, is likely to explore the legal possibility of pursuing charges against Lalit Modi under the Money Laundering Act, which has a provision for arrest. “That is how, with the help of a court order, he can be brought back to India to face the legal system,” the BJP leader said.
Another party leader pointed out that the strongest indictment against Lalit Modi came from a committee of India’s cricket board headed by the BJP’s Arun Jaitley.
Earlier on Thursday, a press release from Ms Raje’s office said she had not been asked by the party to resign. The statement complained about “unsubstantiated media reports” and also denied that she was likely to travel to Delhi soon to meet the BJP’s top bosses.
On Wednesday, the Congress released a seven-page affidavit purportedly signed by Ms Raje, in which she described the Indian investigation against Mr Modi as “a full frontal attack” that was “politically motivated.”
BJP sources say the party is likely to claim that the affidavit was presented by Ms Raje as personal support and not in her official capacity as the then Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan. She returned as Chief Minister for a second term in 2013.