Lalit Modi – Second part of the drama – 5 years later – Bad for the BJP

A lot of drama relating to Lalit Modi, currently drawing in Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhra Raje. The last time that such a drama occurred was during the UPA time, when drama relating to the Kerala IPL team sucked in Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi; Shashi Tharoor lost his ministership, and Lalit Modi was forced to escape outside India – else he was a goner. Ever since then, he has been outside India. He has been obviously enjoying his life outside, he regularly updates on his travels and is a wealthy man (was before the IPL, and seems to be much wealthier now). But, he is not a man who likes being scorned. And that is what Vasundhra Raje did to him over the past 2 years. Before he left India, he was supposed to be the defacto Chief Minister of Rajasthan when she was the CM, wielding a large amount of power and being a strong power center.
In the past couple of years though, Vasundhra Raje has apparently turned against Lalit Modi. First, he spoke out against the powers surrounding her during the assembly elections of 2013 and his candidates were mostly rejected. And then, when he managed to take over the leadership of the Rajasthan Cricket Association, it was active interest by Vasundhra Raje which saw him being upstaged and being replaced by a person of Raje’s choice. Even though this matter is now before the Supreme Court, it would have rankled a lot. And it seems that he has struck back, in a way that leaves Vasundhra in a very difficult position; and she has enemies inside the BJP who are using this time to really add to her troubles.
So, what is the issue ? Most people know the situation, but when you really think about it, it is pretty terrible. Lalit Modi is accused in India of grave financial misdeeds, of money laundering, and has been away from India for the past 5 years rather than facing investigation. In a number of countries, financial misdeeds are treated as bad as terrorism (if you look at the US, the stiff prison sentences for financial misdeeds are the same or greater than those for terror charges), and the amounts involved are in the thousands of crores. It is not material right now to determine whether he is guilty or innocent, since he has opted to flee the charges rather than face them head-on.

One would expect any Indian Government functionary, that too a high minister, to not meet such an offender at a social dinner, and not specially to help him, that too without involving other arms of the Government. What Sushma Swaraj has done is to tell the United Kingdom authorities is, that instead of deporting this person, you are free to give him travel documents; why would they take seriously any deportation requests then. And she did this directly, rather than involving any official of her ministry (her then Foreign Secretary denies any knowledge of this, and apparently Swaraj also got many of the people looking after that geography re-posted within a month of this). One might think that she did this out of a humanitarian gesture, but it is very suspicious indeed that she did not see any conflict of interest – both her husband and daughter have been on the legal team of Modi (she might have been forced to resign right away because of the conflict of interest in many countries). Narendra Modi is a bit stuck on this one, since it starts to dent his corruption and scandal free one year term.
In Vasundra Raje’s case, even more damning. In a release from Modi’s legal team, there is a note (that Vasundhra Raje denies and says that she does not remember) where she has stood as a witness for him at a time (2011) when he was an absconder from India; the note goes on to say that this testimony should not be revealed to Indian authorities (and one wonders whether this is treasonable behavior); at that time, she was leader of the opposition and hence had a rank of Cabinet Minister in Rajasthan (and hence not a commoner). Even more problematic, the financial dealings between Lalit Modi and her son, Dushyant Singh, are harder to deny. They deal with huge amounts of money being paid for shares that apparently had no holdings, shell companies, fake addresses, and so on. Even the BJP seems to realize that they have to shield Swaraj, but what has been revealed about Vasundhra Raje takes it beyond the defensible and something that will lead to egg on the face.
At a different level, the more this scandal gathers steam, the more problem this will have for the image of the BJP. Already, a number of people are calling Dushyant the BJP’s Vadra, and that is a phrase that the BJP will find abhorrent. The PM has been silent, but the memory of a scandal free 1 year seems something of the past, and defending these ladies (however important they are) would take him down the same path as that trod by the UPA where they finally had to let go of their corrupt ministers, but with no benefit. The BJP must be hoping that this scandal blows over, but the Congress has smelt blood, and is not likely to end soon; and the media which has been at the receiving end of many taunts by the BJP supporters will take their revenge by research and pushing the BJP into a corner.

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