Lalit Modi Saga : Where Lies the Truth

Recently, the NDA government at centre was celebrating corruption free one year in office. Several veteran leaders of the congress party retorteded,  give some time cases will bubble up to the top. Were they prophetic or predicting something that they knew. Whatever, may be the case, someone’s prayers has been answered, so it seems. Since then, it has been raining one scam after the other:
1. Sushma Swaraj granting travel paper to Lalit Modi, a fugitive from Indian law;
2. Vasundhara Raje supporting Lalit Modi’s immigration to UK while she was leader of opposition and Modi was evading Indian law;
3. Smriti Irani falsifying her academic credential in an affidavit to election commission;
4. Vinod Tawde fake degree scandal;
5. Pankaja Munde buying chikki for mid day meal at inflated price from blacklisted vendors, flouting due processs;

The speed and regular interval at which scandals have cropped up, it is difficult to assume that these are mere coincidences. Someone out there is trying to embarrass the government. Is it internal war of BJP? Or, political opponents of government are selectively leaking information? In this context the involvement of congress party comes to mind. Like Ravana’s son Meghnaad, congress party has mastered the art of attacking enemy position while staying behind the scene.

Lalit Modi has occupied central theme in most public discourse these days. It is important to understand crimes of Lalit Modi, and perceived improprieties of Sushma Swaraj and Baundhara Raje in relation to Lalit Modi case.

Lalit Modi was accused of financial irregularities in 2010 by the UPA government. Lalit Modi left India in 2011 for England. He never returned. Government of India, UPA government, revoked his passport in 2011, Delhi High Court has restored it in August of 2014. According to court, not enough evidence has been gathered in last four years by government of India to merit revocation of passport. Lalit Modi had got permit for a three year stay in the UK because he had promised to invest one million pounds in British economy. Lalit Modi had asked for a fast track permanent British residence status by promising to invest 10 million pounds in the UK. British Home Office had refused his request, but British court was convinced that Lalit Modi faced persecution and threat to his life in India. Government of India decided against extraditing Lalit Modi. However, Lalit Modi was unable to move out of the UK as his Indian passport was revoked.

In the above context, when Sushma Swaraj, as external affairs minister, had agreed to Lalit Modi visiting his ailing wife in Portugal, the impropriety debate started. Sushma Swaraj and her party had argued:

  • The minister acted on humanitarian ground in good faith;
  • Minister had discretionary power;
  • Minister had asked UK to act according to their rule of law;
  • Modi had come back to UK after visiting his wife. He did not disappear;

Those opposing Sushma Swaraj had claimed that :

  • Minister had conflict of interest;
    • Her husband was a legal advisor to Lalit Modi;
    • Her daughter was working in the firm that represented Lalit Modi legally;
    • Minister had sought favour from Modi about her nephew’s admission in a UK university;
  • Minister never disclosed her move to her colleagues in government or within her department;
  • Modi had lied about his wife and partied in  Portugal
  • Minister must resign.
The chief minister of Rajashtan, Vasundhara Raje has been accused of several improprieties:

  • She had signed an affidavit in 2011 supporting immigration of Lalit Modi to the UK. At the time, Vasundhara Raje was the leader of opposition in Rajasthan assembly. What is more damaging was that Vasundhara Raje had requested her support should not be disclosed to Indian authorities. Mrs. Raje had  claimed that:
    • She had signed the affidavit. But did not depose in front of the judge. So this was an intent which was not executed.
    • She had argued that both she and Lalit Modi were hounded by UPA government. So she did not want any further harassment by informing government.
    • She had signed the affidavit in her personal capacity as a friend of Modi.

    • Whatever, Mrs Raje did for Lalit Modi, it happened in 2011. It was a congress lead government in both centre and state. Why such issues are coming up now?
  • As a person who was occupying a constitutional position like leader of opposition, it was morally wrong to help a fugitive like Lalit Modi;
  • Lalit Modi had supported Dushyant Raje’s business, Vasundhara Raje’s son. Raje was paying Lalit Modi back as quid pro quo. According to critics, Lalit Modi had parked his dirty money in Dushyant Raje’s company in anticipation that no enquiry will be done.
    • Mr Dushayant Singh had argued that finances of his company has been audited by income tax department. Nothing wrong has been detected.
  • Mrs. Raje had shares in Dushyant Raje’s company. 
    • It has been argued that those shares were a gift to her from her son. 
    • She had never encashed those shares. 
    • She had disclosed her shares in her affidavit filed to election commission in 2013.
  • According to her opponents, Mrs Raje must resign from her position of chief minister of Rajasthan.

Since media houses and political opponents of BJP lead NDA are claiming that Lalit Modi is a fugitive, he is avoiding Indian law, he is a criminal, a grave offender who has done financial fraud. It is important to ask, what are the charges against Lalit Modi? What are his crimes? 

  • Several voices, albeit muted voices – Aman Lekhi, a supreme court lawyer, Shekher Gupta, senior journalist and CEO of India Today group, Surjit Bhalla, an economist, ask what are the charges against Lalit Modi. No one seems to have any clarity.

  • Some say, it is FEMA – foreign exchange management act. If so, FEMA charges are not criminal. Lalit Modi’s lawyers can represent him in the court of law. Government could have sought his response through a video conference. In that case, Lalit Modi is not a fugitive. 

  • Some say charges against Lalit Modi are criminal in nature because they involve money laundering. No body is sure if a money laundering charge is framed against Mr. Modi. Upon repeated questioning, in a NDTV debate, Mr. Tom Vadakkan of congress party expressed outrage but could not answer if Lalit Modi has money laundering charge against him. If so, why was he not arrested when it was discovered and Lalit Modi stopped from leaving India?

  • Some say there is Blue corner notice against Lalit Modi. Then we are told such a note only means government should be informed if he visits any country. But in no way, Blue Corner Notice is an arrest warrant. To top that, chief of interpol has recently claimed that government has not given any data to suggest such a warrant should be prepared.

The discourse on Lalit Modi case and the fallout thereof, seems to change everyday. It is, however, clear that many of the alleged crimes were committed during UPA rule between 2009 – 2014. No irregularity relates to present NDA government at the centre that took charge in May 2014. Lalit Modi saga has a great bearing on Indian politics. If Lalit Modi is indeed a criminal, then Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj can be held accountable, may be forced to resign. But if it can be proved that Lalit Modi is not a criminal, then cases against Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj may not hold water.  I think in this great game, someone has to explain to Indian public what is the truth.

Tags: Aman Lekhi, BJP, Blue Collar Notice, Chief Minister, Congress, Dushyant Singh, Financial  Crime, Lalit Modi, Leader of Opposition, Meghnaad, NDA, NDTV,  Pankaja Munde, Ravana, Sekher Gupta, Smriti Irani, Surjit Bhalla, Sushma Swaraj, Tom Vadakkan, UPA, Vasundhara Raje, Vindo Tawde

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