An year into government, just a few months to go before Bihar polls. First test of credibility and perception for Narendra Modi and co. Sushma Swaraj under fire for helping Lalit Modi travel out of london. 5 reasons why Sushma needs to be worried.
It turned out to be the most devastating Sunday for the Modi regime. Even more deadly than the shock of being virtually decimated in Delhi polls. Ever since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, his main pitch was transparency and zero tolerance to corruption. We did see stories of Nitin Gadkari allegedly spending a couple of nights at the yacht of a business tycoon but that was hardly anything in comparison to loot of public money on in full display during the UPA years. There were those murmurs directed against Rajnath Singh's son in the initial few weeks of NDA but that too didn't really stick. But the Sushmagate scandal has enough potential to inflict some serious damage on Prime Minister's claims of zero tolerance to corruption
For starters, it’s an open secret now that politicians in the country are greatly influenced by one news channel and the anchor of that channel in particular. If my memory serves me right, this was the channel that made an art of sticking to one story a day. And stick to the degree that it would end up creating serious damage to the main players. This style was regular during the UPA 2 years but got reduced since BJP came to power. For the first time since BJP came to power, one sees a similar approach on this story.
So what have we? Emails leaked between Lalit Modi and husband of Sushma Swaraj. Perception created that the family of India's foreign minister was not just in regular touch with a man who was described as a legal offender in India, but was also seeking favours from him. Sources in London point out that this is just the tip of ice berg. That there may be much more on this story than what has come out so far. Main players concerned are making light of the entire controversy. This is how Lalit Modi himself reacted.
A closer look at all the emails written by Lalit Modi does nothing more than to show his long list of friends and supporters within the power elite of India.
And this how Ms Swaraj herself tried to brush aside the entire issue
@SushmaSwaraj: What benefit did I pass on to Lalit Modi - that he could sign consent papers for surgery of his wife suffering from Cancer ?
But social media was abuzz with hashtags #istandwithsushma to #sushmamustresign. BJP's own official position was also not very convincing. Party's spokesperson Sambit Patra tried to give it an emotional spin. He stated, " patient may not need consent form to be signed, but a wife needs her husband by her side "
Here are 5 questions that come to my mind
1. Did Ms Swaraj follow the protocol before coming to conclusion that India had no objection to Lalit Modi travelling out of UK?
2. Is it normal for Indian government to take a position in favour of an individual who faces trial in Indian courts but refuses to come to India?
3. While investigations may have been conducted against British MP Keith Vaz, is the information being used effectively a tool to settle political scores within BJP?
4. Is the argument " Its a case of ethics not corruption " a tenable one?
5. Can Ms Swaraj give an assurance that there is no other linkage between her / her family members and Lalit Modi?
For the time being, she may be getting support from RJD, SP and even RSS. But for how long remains the key question. Her fate perhaps also lies in the hands of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. While the likes of Digvijay Singh have taken positions against Sushma, there hasn't yet been any comment from Rahul / Sonia. If the congress tries to convert this into a political crisis, it may force the BJP managers to rework their strategy.
Bottomline, even if Sushma Swaraj survives this latest fire on her, it may be tough for her to keep dodging it for long. Moreso with a Prime Minister in charge, who looks at his image and PR very very seriously.