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BJP attacks Congress on Lalit Modi issue

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New Delhi: The ruling BJP on Wednesday attacked the Congress in the Lok Sabha for the “wrong steps” taken to bring back former IPL chief Lalit Modi and rejected the opposition party’s allegations against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Source: Google images
Source: Google images

Sushma Swaraj countered the allegations concerning her family and denied that her husband Swaraj Kaushal was a lawyer for Lalit Modi in his passport case.

She said her daughter Bansuri was a “junior at ninth number in the appearance list (in the passport case)” and “not a single rupee was taken by her”.

She sought to tear into the Congress, telling Rahul Gandhi to ask his “mamma (Sonia Gandhi)” how much “money had been taken from (Ottavio) Quattrocchi” and why did “daddy (Rajiv Gandhi)” allow release of former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson after the Bhopal gas leak case in 1984.

The acrimonious debate in the Lok Sabha saw Rahul Gandhi accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of lacking guts to face the house over the charges against his minister.

Sparks flew in the house as the five-hour debate was marked by interruptions, sharp and sometimes personal attacks and counter-offensives.

The Congress staged a walkout as soon as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley began his reply to the debate as it wanted the prime minister to do so.

The debate in the form of an adjournment motion moved by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge took place at the fag end of the monsoon session which has been virtually washed out over the Congress demand for the resignation of Sushma Swaraj for her alleged help to Lalit Modi, who is facing an Enforcement Directorate investigation.

In his spirited reply to the debate after a strong attack by the Congress, Jaitley said steps taken by the United Progressive Alliance government to bring back Lalit Modi from abroad “could never succeed”.

He said Lalit Modi was largely being probed by the UPA under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), which had far softer provisions compared to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Jaitley said an FIR was registered against Lalit Modi under the PMLA in 2012 but the case did not take off and the the former Indian Premier League chief became liable for arrest only after concrete steps were taken by the Narendra Modi government.

“He became liable for arrest for the first time in August 2015,” Jaitley said.

The minster said Sushma Swaraj had spoken to the British government at a time when Lalit Modi was not facing a criminal case or had arrest warrants pending but only FEMA proceedings.

He accused the Congress of making a “mountain out of a molehill”.

“The government entirely rejects the allegations. The question of Sushma ji’s resignation does not arise… My entire sympathy is with Sushma ji. It (demand for her resignation) was only a pretext,” he said.

Jaitley accused the Congress of having run “a failed government, a corrupt government”.

“You want to sabotage the Indian growth story, go back on the Goods and Services Tax bill,” the finance minister said.

Jaitley also attacked Rahul Gandhi over his jibes at the prime minister and Sushma Swaraj.

“The problem with Rahul Gandhi is that he is an expert without knowledge,” Jaitley said.

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi launched a strong attack on Narendra Modi.

“(Narendra) Modi had promised the nation that Rs.15 lakh black money would go into every bank account. He had also promised that he will not allow corruption. He has failed in both,” he said, adding that Lalit Modi was the symbol of black money.

“They (the treasury benches) are trying to silence me. The Congress will not keep quiet, we will keep protesting,” Rahul Gandhi said.

He asked how much money Sushma Swaraj’s family got from Lalit Modi and why did she help him in a “humanitarian” way in a hidden manner.

In her searing attack, Sushma Swaraj, who spoke amid constant sloganeering by Congress members, said she had not helped Lalit Modi but his ailing wife who was to undergo a medical procedure for cancer treatment in Portugal.

Denying any quid pro quo on the Lalit Modi issue, she said the Congress vice president should reflect on his family’s history.

“Rahul should ask, why they did the quid pro quo” about Quattrocchi and Anderson.

She claimed Rajiv Gandhi struck a deal with the US government for the release of his “childhood friend Adil Shahryar” who was awarded a 35-year jail in a prison there.

The minister said the British government conveyed that Lalit Modi was given travel documents according to appropriate rules.

She said when P. Chidambaram was the finance minister in the UPA government, his wife Nalini Chidambaram was appointed a lawyer by the income tax department.

(IANS)

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Will Congress Party be Able to Survive in Future in Face of Modi Onslaught?

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence

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From left, Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi, her son and party President Rahul Gandhi, and former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attend a Congress Working Committee meeting in New Delhi, May 25, 2019. VOA

It was India’s “Grand Old Party.” The Congress Party ruled the country for 55 out of 71 years since independence. But following the party’s crushing electoral debacle for a second time, there are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Contrary to expectations, India’s mammoth general election turned out to be virtually a no-contest between Modi and Congress Party president Rahul Gandhi as it became a presidential-style battle.

“It is not what went wrong with the Congress, it is more of a story of what went right for Prime Minister Modi. He stood as a tall leader, as an achiever, as somebody who understood people’s aspirations,” says political commentator Rasheed Kidwai, who has authored a biography of Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi. On the other hand, “Rahul Gandhi is temperamentally not a power wielder. He is a trustee of power.”

The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014.

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves toward his supporters during an election campaign rally in New Delhi, May 8, 2019. VOA

Gandhi’s rallies drew crowds, but his efforts to project Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party as a threat to India’s secular traditions or to highlight issues of economic distress failed to resonate. His attempts to nail him for corruption in a deal to buy Rafale French fighter jets fell flat. His promise of a minimum wage for India’s poorest families was met with skepticism, even among the poor.

On the other hand, Modi, successfully wooed voters with his message of strident nationalism and subtle appeal to the majority Hindu community. Along with it, there was another theme: he projected himself as the humble son of a tea seller, a self made man who fought all odds to reach the top post in contrast to what he called the “entitled” Gandhi who had inherited the mantle of leadership of the Congress Party. It drew cheers from the country’s emerging middle and lower-middle classes, exhausted with dynastic politics.

The Congress Party’s tally of 52 seats in parliament was only a notch higher than the 44 seats it won in 2014 in the 545-member parliament. The party’s candidates returned empty-handed in half the Indian states and in several others the party only mustered a single digit tally.Modi’s BJP won 303 seats.

The scale of its losses not just crushed hopes the Congress Party would either lead a credible challenge to Modi or return as invigorated opposition – it once again raised questions over the leadership of the Gandhi family.

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The sixth member of the Nehru Gandhi family to lead the party, Rahul is often seen as a “reluctant politician”, despite his spirited campaign to revive the party and challenge Modi after its rout in 2014. VOA

Rahul Gandhi has offered to resign, but expectedly the party that has no second rung of leadership has turned it down. “The party will fulfill its role as a strong opposition. We need Rahul Gandhi to lead us in these challenging times,” Congress Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala said after a meeting of the party’s senior leaders on the weekend.

Rahul Gandhi also lost the Amethi constituency the party had held for 50 years in Uttar Pradesh state. In another humiliating blow for the Gandhi family, his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who was appointed in a senior post to revive the party, failed to make an impact. Rahul’s mother, Sonia Gandhi, won her party’s only seat in the state.

Rahul Gandhi’s victory in another constituency in South India means he will continue to be a lawmaker. Dynastic politics is not limited to the Congress Party: lawmakers from political families are a routine feature of Indian politics. But political commentators say in an era showing a preference for strong, populist leaders, Modi was the clear victor.

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here are questions about its future as the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty at its helm is unable to counter the most powerful leader India has produced in decades: Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Wikimedia Commons

“There is a new sense of nationalism sweeping across many conventional democracies. There is a yearning for a strong leader that captures the public imagination,” according to political analyst Ajoy Bose. “I don’t really see the conventional Congress Party or the conventional leadership mounting a challenge to Modi. He has completely taken the country by storm.”

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Gandhi tried to give a positive message after the party’s rout. “We have a different vision of India [from Modi]”, said the head of the party that has long projected itself as a defender of India’s minorities, such as Muslims who worry about religious polarization and a rise in hate crimes since Modi came to power. “There is no need to be afraid. We will continue to work hard and we will eventually win.”

But it may be difficult to reinvent what analysts call a “fading party.” They say Modi’s BJP now occupies the dominant political space that the Congress party did for decades. “Congress is going to get reduced to, you know, like the Liberals did in Britain,” says Rasheed Kidwai. (VOA)