External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been in the middle of a controversy for allegedly helping former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi procure some travel documents in the UK last year has. Modi, however, has been rather combative in his recent interview, and also made key revelations.
Here is a look at the whole controversy and what we get to know from Modi’s recent interview with India Today TV.
In July 2014, Swaraj apparently helped Lalit Modi procure travel papers from the UK government to visit his wife, who was undergoing treatment for cancer in Portugal. Indian-origin Member of Parliament in the UK, Keith Vaz of the Labour Party, is said to have used Swaraj’s name to get the work done at the UK Visa and immigration office. Modi’s passport had been revoked by the Indian government in March 2011 for an alleged violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. (This revocation, however, was later lifted by a Delhi court).
After launching and running IPL for three years, Modi had been found guilty of committing acts of misconduct and indiscipline which led to his removal and lifetime ban from the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Besides, a blue-corner notice is said to have been issued against him and the United Progressive Alliance government of the time to seek his extradition from the UK.
In an interview with India Today Television’s Rajdeep Sardesai, Lalit Modi talked about various issues concerning this controversy. Here are a few important ones:
1. On Vasundhara Raje (there are allegations that Lalit Modi got support from both Swaraj and Raje)
Modi agreed he has made a phone call to Swaraj. He said documents revealed he would have got his residency way back in May 2012. But it was delayed on account of the Congress government. He also admitted he had the original papers signed by Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in support of his immigration, and said Raje was by the side of his wife when she underwent treatment for cancer in his absence. “Raje and Sushma supported me when my wife was sick,” Modi said.
Vasundhra Raje denies
Reports, however, say that Raje has denied having written a witness statement recommending Lalit Modi’s case for a stay in England. A report in India Today quoted sources as saying the Rajasthan chief minister had informed party bosses that she did not appear in the UK in defence of Lalit Modi and did not sign any affidavit.
2. ‘It was UPA’s political vendetta’
In the interview, Modi said the UPA government was against him and it went after him as part of political vendetta. He said: “My passport was revoked on March 3, 2011. I applied to the UK government, and rightly sought residency. My residency was being considered and was going to be granted in 2012 early. In 2013 and 2014, when we went for a Right to Information Act application, we came to know it was the UPA government’s interference, in collusion with the UK government, that delayed the process of I getting a residency in the UK.”
3. On charges he did not appear before Indian courts
Shrugging off the allegation that he did not appear before the Indian courts in several cases, Modi said: “I appeared in every case. I may not have appeared physically but I appeared through my lawyers and by written affidavits that have been used by the different agencies.”
4. On P Chidambaram
Modi also said that former finance minister P Chidambaram had tried to use his clout to get him deported. Modi said Chidambaram could not do it legally because there were no legal grounds for it. “Mr Chidambaram only tried to do it because he sat there as a minister, because I took Mr Shashi Tharoor out. It was a political vendetta and only a political vendetta. There is not a single showcause notice against me that I have.”
5. On Rupert Murdoch
Suggesting that the Sunday Times report on Swaraj’s alleged help to Modi was a handiwork of media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Modi claimed Murdoch did this because he was upset over no exit clause from Champions League, the annual international Twenty20 cricket competition played between top domestic teams from major cricketing nations.
“I will tell you why (British newspaper) Sunday Times is after me? Because it is owned by Rupert Murdoch,” Lalit Modi said.