Friend turns foe, Lalit Modi becomes pain for Raje

Friend turns foe, Lalit Modi becomes pain for Raje

The emergence of Lalit Modi on Rajasthan turf and his changing equations with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje have always been in the spotlight for obvious reasons.

It was the long friendship and proximity with Raje that brought Modi at the helm of governance during the previous BJP tenure. He was even accused to have played an important role in the BJP’s ticket distribution during previous Assembly elections in 2008. 

But the camaraderie is apparently inching towards a tragic end that no one had ever expected. Friends for long, former IPL chief Lalit Modi has now become a pain for Vasundhara Raje who seems to be high on the list of friends Modi is trying to settle old scores with.

“Why Modi and Raje’s friendship turned sour is a secret that no one knows. Modi has been constantly targeting Raje ever since she returned from London just before Assembly election in 2013. Sudden changes in the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) to oust Modi could also be one of the reasons,” said an office-bearer of the RCA on condition of anonymity. There are strong rumors that differences cropped up between Modi and Raje during her stay in London and it was followed by other incidents that fuelled the animosity among them, he added.

In Rajasthan, Modi marked his appearance through the game of cricket. With full support of then chief minister Vasundhara Raje, Modi won the election of the Nagaur Cricket Association and later became the president of the RCA. His induction in Rajasthan cricket was carefully manoeuvred as he was eyeing to get a place in the BCCI.

Driven by the proximity with Raje, Lalit Modi became so powerful that Opposition parties tagged him as the second chief minister of Rajasthan. He was accused of controlling the entire bureaucracy and taking important decisions in the then BJP government. 

The clout of Lalit Modi was evident when a young IPS officer and a senior bureaucrat were snubbed by Modi in full public glare during a cricket match in Jaipur. “He would never follow any protocol even in front of chief minister,” said a senior bureaucrat on condition of anonymity.

The first indication of differences between Raje and Modi came to light during Assembly elections in 2013. It was the time when Vasundhara Raje was touring Rajasthan for election campaign and ticket distribution in the BJP camp was in full swing. Modi sent out a series of damaging tweets alleging Dhirendra Kamthan (Raje’s close aide), Arun Jaitley and Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav for selling the party tickets.

He claimed that “cash-for-tickets” was the new mantra of the party to win the elections. Later, Modi went completely against Raje demanding that she be replaced with the prime minister’s trusted lieutenant and BJP general secretary Om Mathur.

Elections were round the corner and Raje kept a safe distance from her former aide, even refusing to respond to his provocative tweets. It was a rude shock to Modi and his supporters when Raje completely distanced herself from them, immediately after resuming the office in December 2013. 

Tussle for power

Once again in 2014, Lalit Modi tried to acquire control over Rajasthan cricket and won the RCA election with a comfortable margin. Despite been in London, Modi was elected as president of the state cricket body.

Later, district associations made a volte face and allowed former BJP minority cell leader Amin Pathan to oust Modi as the RCA chief. Modi and his supporters blamed that the coup was not possible without the support of big political leaders (Vasundhara Raje).

“Modi was annoyed at sudden changes in the RCA, which he considered impossible without the support of Raje,” said an RCA officials a close aide of Lalit Modi. Immediately after coming to power in 2013, Raje shelved a cricket stadium project in Jaipur, which was the brainchild of Lalit Modi, he added.

When the Congress came to power in 2008, the then chief minister Ashok Gehlot targeted Raje and strongly advocated for the probe in several decisions taken in her government that involved Modi. But Gehlot never initiated any probe. 

While Raje was leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, the Congress repeatedly targeted her for her long absence from the state Assembly. Gehlot would often comment that she had gone to meet her well-wishers (Modi) in London.

“I have been saying since the beginning that a probe should be conducted in several issues related to Raje and Lalit Modi. Raje misused powers to support Modi, who is wanted in India. Everyday new controversies are surfacing. Raje supported immigration application of Modi. Dushyant’s company got Rs 11.8 crore from then IPL chief. The BJP signed MoU with a hospital that treated Modi’s wife. Are these issues not good enough to be probed,” said former chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

Difficulties continued for Raje even in the previous Congress rule in Rajasthan. It was the same time when Raje’s son Dushyant got embroiled in another controversy because of his alleged financial deals with Modi.

A Jaipur-based lawyer Poonam Chand Bhandari filed a petition in the Delhi High Court claiming that Rs 11 crore black money was routed to Dushyant’s company. The matter is under investigation of the Enforcement Directorate.

Raje’s links with Modi and family have always been shadowed by strong rumours. In 2012, Raje allegedly met Modi to discuss election strategy. In 2013, there were strong rumours about differences between Modi and Raje. In 2014, Raje allegedly helped the opponents to oust Modi as the RCA chief. And now in 2015, Lalit Modi is settling scores with Raje with the latest revelations in Modigate and that has dragged Raje into the controversy. But the rumours remained just that, in the absence of evidence.

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