It was an emotionally-charged defense that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj presented today about her role in helping former cricket boss Lalit Modi get travel papers in the UK last year.
“His wife of many years is being treated for cancer… she said she needed the support of her husband… she is an Indian citizen who has not broken any laws,” said Mrs Swaraj. “What would you have done?” she asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, followed by “Would Sonia Gandhi have acted differently?”
Yes, according to Mrs Gandhi’s party, which is demanding Mrs Swaraj’s resignation over the scandal dubbed “Lalitgate”. Ranjeet Ranjan of the Congress said, “She (the Foreign Minister) should help poor women, instead of the wife of a millionaire”.
Mrs Swaraj’s explanation is invalid since it was made while the opposition was missing, said Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress. The party is boycotting the Lok Sabha after 25 of its modest pool of 44 MPs were suspended for five days for unruly behavior.
Disruptions will not cease, the Congress has said, till the PM removes Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, engulfed by allegations of a corruption scam, along with Mrs Swaraj and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje who are accused of helping Lalit Modi’s appeals with UK immigration officials.
In 2010, the magnate moved to London after being named in corruption cases; he has refused to face trial in India, claiming death threats from the underworld.
Mrs Swaraj said in Parliament that she informed the UK that its relations with India would not be affected if it allowed Lalit Modi to travel to Portugal with his wife last year.
“I did not back his appeal,” she said. But given that her stand differed from that of the previous Congress-led government, critics say she should have revealed the change. Mrs Swaraj has also been accused of a conflict of interest because her husband and daughter have served as lawyers for Lalit Modi. The government says she is not guilty of moral or legal transgressions.