New Delhi/Raipur, June 15 (IANS) Scaling up its attack, the Congress on Monday dragged Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the Lalit Modi controversy, asking him to sack External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. The party also said BJP chief Amit Shah must have been aware of the help being extended to the former IPL commissioner.
Lashing out at the prime minister, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said: “Lalit Modi is a symbol of black money, Modi (prime minister) is standing behind Modi (Lalit Modi). Who is Sushma Swaraj ji? She means nothing in this government.”
“It is not a question of Sushma ji resigning, the prime minister should sack Sushma Swaraj from the government,” he said in Raipur.
Gandhi also tweeted: “There is only one man running this country and the government — that’s Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi should stop protecting Lalit Modi.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said Prime Minister Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah must have been aware of the help being extended to the former Indian Premier League cricket commissioner.
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 said at a press conference in New Delhi: “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.”
“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.
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 national capital.