Raje, Sushma, Smriti and LaMo: Cong has ammo against Modi govt

NEW DELHI (TIP): On July 1, every TV channel in India had a similar story to tell, but with different characters.

One of them was talking about Lalit Modi’s job offer to Swaraj Kaushal; another about Pankaja Munde and her ‘chikki scam; on a Hindi channel there was a lot of tongue-wagging on Varun Gandhi’s alleged meeting with the ex-IPL chief and Smriti Irani’s degree (or the lack of it); and on NewsX, a young reporter was chasing revenue department officials for records related to Vasundhara Raje’s Dholpur Palace.

The Congress must be excited, eyeing the prey, the media has lined up for it before the Monsoon Session of the Parliament begins on 5 August. But the Congress has a problem: Even after three weeks of relentless attack on BJP leaders and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and her son, the Congress still doesn’t have a single prey.

The signs are ominous. The Congress has indicated that it will stall the Parliament. The BJP has made it clear that Lalit Modi and his cronies in the Narendra Modi government are irrelevant. The Congress is unlikely to back off easily after smelling blood. The BJP is least likely to run away or capitulate resulting in total mayhem in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.

The Congress is justified in seeking action against Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje. The foreign minister deciding the case of her family’s client, bypassing the Indian diplomatic channels is a clear case of impropriety, if not illegality. Raje’s case is even more serious. Her alleged statement in support of Lalit Modi’s immigration application, the attempt to keep it a secret from Indian authorities, leave her with no valid defence. Her son Dushyant’s questionable financial deals with Modi are almost similar to the transaction between Robert Vadra and DLF. In addition, the government of India has already told a court that it is probing the deal.

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The Congress has a valid case. It knows that a section of the media is on its side in the fight against Raje and Swaraj. In the public, Modi’s image of a leader who would not tolerate corruption, nepotism and impropriety has also taken a beating. It would insist on strict action against the two BJP leaders. But the BJP can’t afford to act against both Raje and Sushma, albeit for different reasons.

Acting against Raje is fraught with risks. She has a brute majority and may even split the party if forced to quit — an idea that has been attributed to her in the past too —and turn into Rajasthan’s BS Yedyurappa. With the Bihar election on the horizon, the BJP can’t afford rebellion and dissent.

Acting only against Raje would not be easy. Even if PM Modi is keen to sack her, he will have to find a way to de-link Raje with Swaraj, whose offence and seniority perhaps warrant opprobrium but not a resignation.

Also, Modi is known to not act in haste, sometimes not at all. He has his own definition of Raj Dharma and doesn’t wilt under pressure from the Opposition or the media. For him, politics always weighs much more than Opposition’s demands for morality and propriety. Silence has always been Modi’s favourite way of dealing with uncomfortable questions. Knowing Modi, he will continue to ignore the Opposition and its noise.

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