Lalit Modi is in self-imposed exile in the UK since 2010
The opposition’s attempt to attack the NDA government over the growing scandal surrounding absconding cricket entrepreneur Lalit Modi seems to be a blatant attempt to embarrass Prime Minister Narendra Modi. That Modi himself has not spoken about the row is not helping matters, with his silence encouraging the vocal voices in the Congress party and AAP.
According to Firstpost, Lalit is reportedly linked to politicians in every major party. The BCCI bosses who ousted him from the Indian Premier League (IPL) may well have been in cahoots with the Congress to get control of the world's most cash-rich cricket body.
The earlier UPA administration had failed to get help from Interpol for Lalit’s arrest and extradition from the UK. They may have merely wanted him to remain outside of India where he could not incriminate any politicians or threaten the status quo in Indian cricket.
The scandal over Lalit’s travel documents is therefore a convenient tool for those who want to bring the prime minister down a few notches - his rivals inside the BJP and outside it.
The government therefore needs to act quickly to prevent the controversy from spinning out of control. Both External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje have been criticised for allegedly helping Lalit, and should have stepped down immediately when the matter was first raised publicly.
Sushma had told British MP Keith Vaz and British High Commissioner that she had no objection to Lalit’s request for travel documents to travel outside the UK for his wife's treatment. But the fact that the minister’s husband and daughter have both worked for Lalit as his legal counsel raises questions of impropriety and conflict of interest.
Vasundhara then came under attack after it was revealed that she had helped Lalit get a permit to stay in the UK. She had allegedly filed an affidavit in 2011 supporting him when she was the leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan assembly. It has been alleged that her son Dushyant Singh benefited when Lalit invested in his company.
With both ministers standing their ground and refusing to step down, the NDA risks squandering political capital in rallying behind them. After all, Modi won the last election largely on his anti-corruption plank. To be then seen to be doing nothing in the face of impropriety in his own ranks could cause a serious dent to the prime minister’s clean image.