While development plank and strong anti-incumbency against a corrupt UPA Government, were 2 of the main reasons for Modi getting elected to the post of Prime Minister, the fact that Modi was an “outsider” to the world of Delhi politics was a USP which cannot be ignored. Modi claimed that he was part of the incestuous Lutyens group of babus, journalists, big influencer-crooks and politicians. He was just a “chaiwala”, who far from being part of this coterie, was ostracized by such groups for years through systematic campaigns in press and otherwise.
This image, was passed on to the Government he ran too, but now after Lalit-Gate, it has been shattered. While Modi himself has not been seen to be in such groups, his ministers are deeply in the mess. Sushma Swaraj was the first to get dragged into this imbroglio. While on many counts, her actions maybe justifiable and not illegal, the question of quid-pro-quo will always remain. In hindsight, it would have been better for her to recuse herself from Lalit Modi’s case, like Jaitley had recused himself from a similar conflict of interest decision. A resignation would maybe be too much to ask, but a rebuke from Modi was certainly expected. It has not come yet.
Sushma did not go down alone. She very slyly tried to rope in Arun Jaitley. At the height of the controversy, Sushma tweeted this:
Look who is preaching propriety – of all the persons Navika Kumar !
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) June 15, 2015
This seemingly cryptic tweet probably hinted at the close relations Navika Kumar, Times Now anchor, has with Arun Jaitley. These relations were brought to fore by the Radia tapes, where Nira Radia repeatedly says, “Arun Jaitley is your friend na?”. Sushma might have tried to fire shots at Jaitley because it was then rumoured that Jaitley was behind the leaked Lalit Modi emails. Lalit Modi and Jaitley have never been friends, right from BCCI times. Jaitley and Sushma too had been on opposite factions within the BJP. So it was felt this leak was a two-pronged attack on Lalit Modi and Sushma Swaraj. This theory was furthered slyly fuelled by BJP MP Kirti Azad:
— Kirti Azad (@KirtiAzadMP) June 14, 2015
While two central ministers were in the soup, Lalit Modi made some startling revelations about Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje too. Again, there was no prima facie illegality. An unsigned and unfinished affidavit was bandied about, in which Raje allegedly promised help to Lalit, provided the help wouldn’t be made public. But then Lalit Modi spilt the beans in Rajdeep Sardesai’s interview, where he declared that he and Raje enjoyed close relations. Soon the story unraveled as it was seen that Raje’s Government had signed an MoU with the same Portuguese hospital in which Lalit Modi’s wife was operated, that too within 2 months of the operation. Lalit Modi too, had invested in Raje’s son’s company. While the illegality of all the above was not proven, one thing was certain. Arun Jaitley was very much part of the Lutyens media group, and possibly knew something about the wrongdoings in BCCI. Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje were friends of one time master-salesman- turned-“fugitive” Lalit Modi. These facts are more than enough to shatter the image that atleast some people in the Modi Government are not insulated from the networks that exist in Delhi. While none of the above “crimes” are earth-shattering like a 2G scam or a Coalgate, they do take away the sheen and the protective layer which the Government enjoyed for its first year. So what should Modi do now? He has to put his foot down. Past mistakes cant be rectified, but in future, the conduct of his ministers has to be top class. If not for public consumption, atleast internally, all the people mentioned above, from Sushma to Jaitley to Kirti Azad need to be told to behave in appropriate manner henceforth. Raje on the other hand, in all probability will have to be investigated, considering the allegations on her are the most damning. If need, be heads should roll. As for Lalit Modi, the Government is in a real tough spot. Undoubtedly Lalit Modi has dirt on everybody across the political spectrum. He has already brought in Chidambaram, Sharad Pawar and even the current President Pranab Mukherjee. If the Government goes hard on him, he may very well expose more BJP leaders. The prime target will obviously be Arun Jaitley, who not only has a troubled relationship with Lalit Modi, but is also the de-facto political head of the Enforcement Directorate, which will go after Lalit Modi. If on the the other hand, Lalit Modi is let loose, Media will continue with their tirade. The Government will be seen as protecting a criminal and it will become very hard for BJP to fight it out. Public perception will be lost and Bure Din will surely be seen in upcoming elections. It will be interesting to see how BJP and the Government, deal with this conundrum, as either ways, there will be collateral damage.