New Delhi, July 1, 2015
- LalitGate is expanding to engulf the Gandhi family
- Is there a method to this tweet bomb madness?
- How is it going to end? Our take
Former Indian Premier league Commissioner Lalit Modi has dropped “tweet” bombs that has sent shock waves across both the Congress and the BJP. He has dragged Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her nephew Varun Gandhi, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP), in the center of a raging controversy over an alleged pact for helping him in the economic offences cases currently pursued by the Enforcement Directorate in India.
In a separate development, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj , who went out of the way to help Lalit Modi obtain travel documents from UK authorities in July 2014, found herself in the center of a fresh scandal with a leaked email showing Lalit Modi offering her husband the post of director in one of his companies in April this year. The offer was later withdrawn.
In his tweets, Lalit Modi’s claimed that Varun Gandhi, son of Sonia’s estranged sister-in-law, Maneka Gandhi, who is a Cabinet minister in the Modi government, offered him to “settle” all matters with Sonia for a massive financial consideration. Lalit Modi said Varun Gandhi visited him at his house in London a few years ago and said he could settle everything in India through his aunt (Sonia Gandhi). Modi went on to add that Varun wanted him to meet Sonia’s sister from Italy. “I heard next from our common friend who introduced us that Auntie wanted 60 million dollars … Can he deny that. I hope he does.”
In another tweet, Lalit Modi said, “Please clarify @varungandhi80 did u or did u not come to my house in London. Whilst staying at the Ritz hotel a few years ago.”
After this came the following: “The auntie he refers to is #soniagandhi. The sister is #soniagandhi sister – just for clarity.”
Backing Lalit Modi’s claim, BJP MLA from Rajasthan, Jagat Singh, son of former Foreign minister Natwar Singh, admitted that he facilitated Varun’s meeting with Lalit Modi through a world renowned astrologer. In his tweet, he said the meeting took place at the behest of Varun Gandhi. Jagat claimed Lalit Modi was shocked and upset after his meeting with Varun.
While the sensational claims triggered as war of words between both the BJP and the Congress, Varun Gandhi admitted that he met Lalit Modi along with Jagat Singh in 2012, but denied any such “deal” was discussed between the two and described their meeting as a “chance encounter.”
While a red-faced Congress said Lalit Modi was trying to divert attention from the culpability of senior BJP leaders in the scandal, the BJP sought a clarification from the Congress President, “Sonia Gandhi should answer on the allegations made by Modi,” said BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma.
On the other hand, Congress chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala accused Lalit Modi of trying to divert attention from the Congress demand of resignation of Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje.
“The ‘chhota Modi’ is helping ‘bada Modi’. He has become the ‘sankatmochak’ (trouble-shooter)… The ‘chhota Modi’ is acting at the instance of someone within the government and the BJP… These are preposterous allegations.”
– Congress Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala
Meanwhile, fresh revelations surfaced about Sushma Swaraj’s links with Lalit Modi. Documents showed that the former IPL chief offered Sushma‘s lawyer husband, Swaraj Kaushal, a position on the board of one of his family-run firms, Indofil.
Most significantly, Lalit Modi made the offer to Sushma’s husband in April this year, nine months after she helped him obtain travel documents from UK authorities. Lalit Modi later withdrew the offer before it could be considered by the Board. “ The proposal was withdrawn before it could be brought for consideration by the board”. So the board never considered that request. That’s the current situation,” K K Modi, Lalit’s father and Chief Managing Director (CMD) of Indofil, said.
“Lalit didn’t give him (Swaraj Kaushal) power but a proposal that Kaushal be appointed as alternate director of company,” the Senior Modi said, adding “(when) he’s not on the board so where is the conflict of interest?”
Kaushal also admitted that he was offered a position on the Indofil board, but justified it by contending that he was associated with Lalit Modi as a lawyer for over two decades. But the disclosure has come handy for the Congress, which has alleged that this showed the deep nexus between Swaraj’s family and Lalit Modi. “Sushma Swaraj must tell the people of the country how many times she has met Lalit Modi or if any of her family members had been in touch with the fugitive,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
“I think it’s time for the Foreign minister to sing the national anthem and step down,” said another Congress leader Tom Vadakkan. The BJP persisted with its stand that there was no question of any of its leader resigning in the wake of their alleged involvement in the LalitGate.
Is there a method to this tweet bomb madness?
Lalit Modi and his tweets have completely occupied all three types of media – Broadcast, Print and Social and with every tweet, there is a new name coming to the fore. As more people get sucked into this LalitGate web, it is useful to take a step back and see who is un-affected by it. For sure, LalitGate has shined a harsh flashlight into the multiple hats worn by some influential personalities in India (they are politicians, corporate officers, sports administrators rolled into one). The sad part is that each of these roles demands a person’s full time attention. Either these personalities are having proxies run some of these entities or worse, they are making decisions without having all the facts in hand. Either way it is high time these ‘Eminenterati’ take a call and pursue just one vocation. They can hide and obfuscate news in 2 of the 3 types of media but Social Media brushes away all their steel walls and will pursue the truth relentlessly.
How is it going to end?
We are going to stick our neck out and make some predictions – Only time will tell if these turn out to be true or not.
- Some of the ministers will have to step down in the Central Government. A reshuffle was due in a few months time and this may now get accelerated.
- The Prime Minister himself has not been affected by any of this, even though he too was the President of Gujarat Cricket Association. Known for getting rid of deadwood, this maybe a good time for him to wield the axe and emerge stronger
- Will Rajasthan be choosing a new Chief Minister? Opinion is divided on this so we think it may or may not happen.
If all this tamasha leads to a more open, honest and transparent government, then the people will benefit. Probity in Indian politics is not easy and the minuscule few, who can wear this mantle should be prized and rewarded with important roles in the government. As witnessed in the recently concluded Delhi polls, the public is discerning and will act swiftly if it feels that justice is not being done.
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