Sushma Swaraj row: Is Vasundhara Raje the first on Lalit Modi’s hit list?


June 16, 2015

Lalit Modi is a creation of Vasundhara Raje. Is the proverbial Frankenstein now being destroyed by her own creature?

June 16, 2015

Lalit Modi is a creation of Vasundhara Raje. Is the proverbial Frankenstein now being destroyed by her own creature?

In a new twist to the controversy over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's decision to help Modi get travel documents from the British government, the former IPL chief's team has released documents that suggest the Rajasthan chief minister had also secretly helped him while he was in London.

According to a three-page note released by Modi's team, Raje had supported his application for immigration to the UK in 2011.

"This witness statement is provided on the strict understanding that its contents and the identity of its maker are treated confidentially and that it is used only for the purposes stated in it.

"I make this statement in support of any immigration application that Lalit Modi makes, but do so on the strict condition that my assistance will not become known to the Indian authorities," says the document dated 18 August 2011.

This transpired a year after Modi left India when allegations of financial wrongdoing in the IPL surfaced against him. Though he was summoned by the Enforcement Directorate on several occasions, Modi refused to return, claiming a threat to his life. His passport was soon revoked.

The authenticity of the document has not been verified yet. "I know Modi's family. But I do not know what is this document they are talking about," Raje told news agency ANI in Jaipur. Her supporters have raised questions about the veracity of Modi's claims by pointing out that the papers do not have her signature.

But Modi has claimed that the document is authentic. "Raje gave written document in my support," he told India Today in an exclusive interview. He also claimed that Raje accompanied his wife Meenal to Lisbon for treatment.

It is not known why Modi has himself put out such damaging documents against Raje if she was indeed trying to help him. Just a day ago, Modi had hinted that he will soon unleash a war and many other skeletons will tumble out of his closet. From the developments so far, Raje seems to be high on Modi's list of friends he is trying to settle old scores with.

The ongoing controversy is a shocking finale to the bond Raje and Modi once shared. Just a few years ago, they were family friends and political allies.

Several years ago, when Modi was trying to get a foothold into the BCCI, the Rajasthan chief minister handed over Rajasthan Cricket Association to him on a platter by bringing in a controversial sports ordinance.

Before Modi became the president by unseating the mighty Rungtas, the electorate for the RCA comprised 32 district associations and 67 individual members.

The Raje government's ordinance denied voting rights to individual members – most of them were Rungta family loyalists – paving the way for Modi's victory.

One of the clauses in the ordinance made convicted criminals ineligible for elections to sports bodies. This almost scuttled Modi's plan when it was revealed that Modi was convicted of possessing drugs, kidnapping and assault in the US during his days as a university student. The conviction came after Modi confessed to committing the offences before a North Carolina court.

But a friendly government in Rajasthan stood by Modi's side and ensured his victory. After pocketing Rajasthan, Modi went on to become a vice president in the BCCI and later the IPL chief.

During Raje's first tenure as chief minister of Rajasthan (2003-2008), Modi was often accused by the opposition of being the "super chief minister." Her rival, Congress leader Ashok Gehlot, repeatedly attacked Modi, saying he was controlling the government from his suite in a five-star hotel in Jaipur. "She used to send her bureaucrats with files to Lalit Modi at the Rambagh Hotel to negotiate on all the big deals. When I became the chief minister, we set up the Mathur Commission to investigate all these allegations," Gehlot alleged after becoming the CM in 2008.

While she was leader of the opposition in the Assembly, the Congress repeatedly targeted Raje for her long absence from the state. Gehlot would often insinuate that she had gone to London to meet her well-wishers. In November 2012, just before his birthday, there were rumours that Raje had met Modi at 117, Sloane Street, believed to be his residence, to discuss strategy for the upcoming elections. But the rumours remained just that in the absence of evidence.

Around the same time, Raje's son Dushyant got embroiled in another controversy because of his alleged financial deals with Modi. A Jaipur-based lawyer Poonam Chand Bhandari wrote a series of letters to the Enforcement Directorate claiming Modi had laundered black money for Raje's son, who is a two-term MP from Dholpur.

In his complaint, Bhandari alleged that around Rs 24 crore was routed to Niyant Heritage Hospitality Ltd by a company owned by Modi and his wife.

According to the complaint, Dushyant and his wife are directors and shareholders in Niyant Hospitality.

Bhandari had alleged that the money transferred to Niyant Hospitality was routed through a fictitious Mauritius-based company and it was a case of round tripping of money.

In 2013, Bhandari filed a petition in the Delhi High Court. In January this year, a division bench of the HC refused to intervene in the matter saying that it wasn't necessary since an Additional Solicitor General (ASG) appearing on behalf of the Union Government has informed that a probe into the matter has already been initiated.

"He (ASG) further states that an open and general investigation has been initiated and is in progress. Mr Sanjay Jain, ASG also states that the investigation shall be taken to its logical conclusion and in accordance with law. In view of the statement made by Mr Sanjay Jain, ASG, no further directions are necessary from this Court," the HC order said.

The first indication of relations between Raje and Modi turning sour came in 2013. As pointed out by Firstpost, during the 2013 election campaign, Modi sent out a series of damaging tweets alleging Jaitley was conspiring against Raje. "Elections round the corner… Seems coterie of Arun Jaitley-Bhupendra Yadav has started to sell tickets. Cash-for-tickets seems (to be the) new mantra. Sad," he said.

In another tweet, he warned Raje, "Be careful… Arun Jaitley's Man Friday Bhupendra Yadav and your man (Dhirendra) Kamthan sell tickets for cash." One of the immediate provocations for these charges, to which the BJP responded by calling Modi a fugitive, was denial of party ticket to the IPL chief's close aide from Dausa.

Later, Modi swung to the other extreme and became Raje's critic, demanding that she be replaced with Prime Minister's trusted lieutenant and BJP general secretary Om Mathur.

Nobody knows what prompted that turnaround. Was Modi trying to build bridges with Jaitley, or was he trying to fake a fight with Raje to shield her from his detractors?

Now that the Raje-Modi equation is under the scanner, we will know the exact status of the relation between the mentor and the muse. And if Raje will be destroyed by the man she created a decade ago.

Courtesy: Firstpost