Sushma acted bonafide in Lalit Modi issue: Jaitley

Sushma acted bonafide in Lalit Modi issue: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today sought to do some damage control by coming out in defence of Sushma Swaraj over her help to scam-tainted Lalit Modi while Prime Minister Narendra Modi continued to be targeted in the 'Modigate' by Congress.

Two days after the raging controversy broke out triggering a political storm for the Modi government, Jaitley, Swaraj, who holds the External Affairs portfolio, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh met in the Home Ministry and discussed the entire issue for an hour before Singh and Jaitley held a press conference.

"All allegations levelled are baseless. Her (Swaraj) statement and that of the party President (show) that whatever she did was with good intentions.

"She acted bona fide. The entire government and the party are one on the issue. There should be no doubt on this," Jaitley said with Singh by his side.

Jaitley's defence of his cabinet colleague comes two days after party President Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh had asserted that Swaraj had acted on humanitarian considerations in the matter of helping former IPL boss Lalit Modi get travel documents from Britain.

Modi, former IPL boss, has taken refuge in London for over five years after the Enforcement Directorate levelled money laundering and other charges against him involving an amount of Rs 1,700 crore and wants him for investigations in India in the 2009 IPL scam.

Speculation has been rife over the "silence" of Jaitley after the controversy broke out on Sunday over Swaraj's help to Lalit Modi.

There have been reports that the Finance Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry are involved in a blame game over who should appeal against the Delhi High Court order quashing the revocation of Lalit Modi's passport in August last year. 

The MEA is said to be of the view that the issue of revocation of passport was a matter in the jurisdiction of the ED which was pursuing cases against Modi and it was for it to make the appeal.

There was also a report that former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, removed by the Modi government, having remarked that she knew nothing about the minister helping Lalit Modi. Sources also said there was nothing in writing about Swaraj having talked to the British High Commissioner on the issue.

However, finance ministry sources say that the ED and the Revenue Department were not a party before the case in the Delhi High Court and it was for the MEA to go in appeal.

Jaitley himself stepped in to clarify the issue.

Asked whether the Enforcement Directorate would appeal against the Delhi High Court decision quashing the revocation of passport, Jaitley said "the matter of passport comes within the jurisdiction of passport authorities.  They will decide."

To another question whether the ED will continue its probe in the Lalit Modi matter, he said the ED has investigated several cases against the person concerned (Modi) and has issued a number of show cause notices as part of its quasi judicial functions.

Asked whether Swaraj had acted on her own to help Modi, Jaitley said all ministers in charge of various departments were capable of taking decisions and in all decisions taken by the government there is a collective responsibility.

There have been insinuations by some party insiders suggesting that Jaitley could have a hand in Swaraj's troubles.  Party MP Kirti Azad had tweeted about a "snake in the grass" suggesting an insider job.

Jaitley parried a question as to who was the "aasteen ka saanp" (snake in the grass) which Azad had tweeted about.

"Ask the next question," was his repartee. 

The Finance Minister also said that a "light blue corner" notice has been issued against Modi in 2010 and that continues to be valid even today.

Meanwhile, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi continued his attack on the Prime Minister saying he was rescuing Lalit Modi, "a man of blackmoney". The Prime Minister had promised to bring blackmoney and put Rs 15 lakh in everyone's account.

"Narendra Modi is rescuing Lalit Modi, the blackmoney man. He is the blackmoney man in Indian cricket," Gandhi told reporters in Chhattisgarh.

He made light of Jaitley's defence of Swaraj saying "if he does not defend then who will do it".

"Sushmaji is nobody in the government. It is only Narendra Modi, who is running the government and the country," he said.

At a press conference in the AICC, Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded a Supreme Court monitored SIT and the Prime Minister needed to speak up as "what has happened is scandalous".

"There has been nexus of the senior leadership of the government (with former IPL boss Lalit Modi) who have been in cahoots in cricket management or mismanagement. An independent inquiry by a Supreme Court-monitored SIT is necessary," he said.

Alleging "Lalit Modi is personally known to the highest in the BJP", he recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also associated with the Gujarat Cricket Association when he was the state's Chief Minister. 

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