Modi government credibility on line

The raging controversy over the “relationship” between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje with former Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi seems to be throwing up fresh surprises each passing day. Though the contours of the suspected illegal deals of Lalit Modi are widely known, there is an element of fuzz over what exactly the various government agencies are doing vis-a-vis the charges against him. Several prosecuting arms of the government have been investigating charges against Modi including the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Income-Tax department and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence. With two of its star leaders linked to Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party government should come out with a white paper on where exactly the issue stands.

 Transparency is of the utmost necessity at this point. This will help prevent wild speculation and needless finger pointing. Credited with conceptualising and implementing the hugely popular IPL 20-20 cricket tournament, Modi for instance has to respond to the ED’s show cause notice involving an amount of Rs 2,148.3 crore that allegedly contravened provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA). The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), on its part, had found Modi guilty of at least eight different charges and expelled him in September 2013. There has been a litany of charges of fraud of various kinds against Modi ranging from buying a corporate jet in a questionable manner to receiving slush money worth several crores. The serious nature of the charges is what makes it imperative for the government to come public with information on where the investigations stand and what is it doing to get him back to India for questioning. Obviously, none is asking for any information that will prejudice the investigations. But, what can be revealed must be revealed.  

Given the seriousness of charges and the involvement of two ministers with Modi, the government must make it clear that it is not siding with him or attempting to protect him in any manner. Already, questions are being raised over why the BJP-led government did not appeal against the Delhi High Court order revoking the cancellation of his passport last August. Until Lalit Modi comes to India, investigations against him cannot be taken to their logical conclusion. So, the first thing the government should have done was to have forced him to return either by invoking India’s extradition treaty with the United Kingdom or some other means. Unfortunately, nothing of this sort has happened until now. For the Narendra Modi government, coming clean on the issue is imperative as it promised corruption-free governance.

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