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BJP euphoria ebbing away with allegations of leaders’ proximity to Lalit Modi

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By Amulya Ganguli

Till the quicksand of indiscretions enveloped Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had the advantage over its principal rival, the Congress, of not being the victim of any major scandal.

Hence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had the chutzpah of telling an audience abroad that while he was associating India with “skill”, the previous government had shamed the country with the appellation of “scam India”. Only a few months after this display of effrontery which ignored the tradition of not raising domestic issues on foreign soil, the Modi government has had its comeuppance.

Instead of focussing on ways to emerge from the “prudent gradualism”, in economist Jagdish Bhagwati’s words, of the reforms, which the government’s critics interpret as a dragging of the feet, the prime minister and his government are immersed in an episode which, according to the Congress, is marked by “nepotism, abuse of authority and violation of procedure”.

Notwithstanding the attempts to emphasize the Good Samaritan aspect of the external affairs minister’s intervention on behalf of the former Indian Premium League (IPL) administrator, Lalit Modi’s ailing wife, the fact that Lalit Modi is a fugitive from Indian justice has undermined Sushma Swaraj’s acts of “good intentions”, as finance minister Arun Jaitley has said.

To make matters worse for the BJP, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje has joined Sushma Swaraj in demonstrating her proximity to Lalit Modi. Their explanation for their camaraderie is that Modi is a family friend. But the acts of hobnobbing recall the adage that a person is known by the company he or she keeps.

Interestingly, the BJP is seemingly keener on standing by the external affairs minister than the chief minister, who has apparently been left to fend for herself over an allegation that she endorsed Lalit Modi’s application for immigration to Britain on the condition that the Indian authorities should not know about it.

Although the document bears no signature, the chief minister and her party will have considerable difficulty in wriggling out of this instance of playing hide and seek. Further complications have been caused by the charge of dubious business links between Lalit Modi and Raje’s son, Dushyant, which has made the BJP’s critics dub Dushayant as its Robert Vadra, the controversial son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Scams are not only about thieving as the scandals involving the 2G telecom spectrum, the allocation of mining blocks for coal and others during Manmohan Singh’s tenure suggest. They can also damage a party by showcasing the subterranean links between powerful ministers and sleaze operators.

Considering that Narendra Modi had once taunted Congress leader Shashi Tharoor for having a Rs.50 crore girl friend because of Sunanda Pushkar’s IPL deals, the reports about how prominent BJP leaders have gone out of their way to help the tainted former IPL czar cannot but be an embarrassment for the prime minister.

The BJP rode to power not only on the basis of promising economic growth but also by stressing its commitment to a clean public life.

Now, both the pledges have failed to materialize. Unless Narendra Modi demonstrates his fabled capacity to act decisively, the daily unfolding of the bonhomie between ministers and a person under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate will only provide more juicy grist to the Congress’s mill.

Taken together with the disquiet among farmers about the proposed amendments of the land acquisition law, and among ex-servicemen over the delay in implementing the one-rank, one-pension rule, the Sushma Swaraj-Vasundhara Raje-Lalit Modi saga can have damaging consequences for the BJP on two fronts.

First, the inevitable stalling of parliament on the issue will be a further setback to the prime minister’s reforms agenda. Secondly, the BJP will not find it easy to launch an effective election campaign in Bihar when its hands are not clean and when it faces various disaffected groups.

Moreover, in view of the attacks from multiple fronts, the BJP seems to have lost some of its fighting instincts. Otherwise, it is not clear why it backed off from attacking the Congress on the affairs of Ottavio Quattrocchi and Warren Anderson after a few initial forays.

Though several years old, these issues still have the potential to embarrass the Congress, and particularly the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. If the BJP has erred by befriending a virtual absconder, the Congress had committed a worse sin by allowing Quattrocchi, an Italian friend of the dynasty, and Anderson, the Union Carbide chief, escape from the country without facing the consequences of their offences in the Bofors howitzer deal and the world’s worst industrial disaster in Bhopal.

Instead of raising these issues, the BJP has chosen to opt for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into a disproportionate assets case against the Congress’s chief minister in Himachal Pradesh, Virbhadra Singh, presumably to show that its rival is also not squeaky-clean.

The move will appear all the more to be a tit-for-tat exercise considering that the government has stopped the CBI for pursuing the inquiries into the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case apparently in view of the likelihood that an investigation can turn the needle of suspicion towards senior BJP leaders.

For the BJP, the euphoria of May last year must now seem far away.

(Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached at amulyaganguli@gmail.com)

 

 

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India-Pakistan Ties: India Grants Medical Visa to another Pakistani National

The action was termed "highly regrettable" by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

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Sushma swaraj addressing a press conference. Wikimedia

New Delhi, November 10, 2017 : India on Friday issued a medical visa to another Pakistani national following a promise made by the Ministry of External Affairs on Independence Day.

“Amna – We have approved medical visa for your father Mr Shamim Ahmed,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted in response to a request from one Amna Shamim through the Twitter handle of Karachi’s Muhammad Talha.

Shamim also posted a reference letter dated October 9 from a doctor in Sri Ganga Ram Hospital who stated that the patient was being considered for a liver transplant.

On Independence Day, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had announced that India would provide medical visas to all bonafide Pakistani patients.

As ties between the two countries soured over various issues, the ministry had announced in May that only a letter of recommendation by then Pakistan Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Advisor Sartaj Aziz would enable a Pakistani national to get a medical visa for India.

The action was termed “highly regrettable” by Islamabad, which said that asking for such a letter violated diplomatic norms and such a requirement had not been prescribed for any other country.

However, a patient from Pakistan-administered Kashmir, seeking treatment in New Delhi for liver tumour, was given a visa on July 18.

Sushma Swaraj then said that he needed no recommendation from the Pakistani government for a medical visa because the territory “is an integral part of India”.

Since August 15, however, Pakistani nationals seeking medical treatment have not been denied visas. (IANS)

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Ryan International School Murder Mystery Solved! 16-year-old Student who wanted exams Postponed Accused of Murder

The Haryana Police had earlier claimed that Pradhuman was killed by Ryan International School bus conductor Ashok Kumar inside the toilet as the boy resisted a bid to sodomise him.

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Murder mystery of the class 2 student at Ryan international school, Gurugram has finally been solved (representative image) IANS

Gurugram, November 8, 2017 : A 16-year-old student of Ryan International School in Gurugram who wanted exams and a scheduled meeting between teachers and parents delayed is the prime accused in the murder of Class 2 student Pradhuman Thakur, the CBI said on Wednesday.

CBI spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said the Class 11 student was detained on Tuesday night after “inspection of the crime spot, scrutiny of CCTV footage, call records, statements and questioning of several people” revealed that he had carried a knife inside the school campus on the day of the crime and used it to kill his junior school mate.

“The weapon used in the commission of crime is a knife which was recovered initially by police in Gurugram (Haryana). It is now with us,” Dayal told reporters here.

He said the detained student was weak in studies and “wanted to have examination and parent-teacher meeting postponed”. Pradhuman, 7, was his random target.

The parents of the detained student were kept informed throughout the investigation, said the spokesperson for the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The CBI took over the case on September 22 from Haryana Police, nearly two weeks after the Class 2 boy was found with his throat slit in a bathroom of Ryan International School.

The accused will now be produced before the Juvenile Justice Board, where the court is expected to decide whether he is to be treated as a major or a minor as per the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

The Haryana Police had earlier claimed that Pradhuman was killed by Ryan International School bus conductor Ashok Kumar inside the toilet as the boy resisted a bid to sodomise him.

While Ashok Kumar was arrested, Pradhuman’s parents and two other staffers have claimed that he was being made a scapegoat. (ians)

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Myanmar Must Take Back Displaced Rohingya Refugees : India

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state

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A group of Rohingya refugees walk on the muddy road after traveling over the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. VOA

Dhaka, October 22, 2017 : India on Sunday said Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh must be taken back by Myanmar from where they have been displaced.

“Normalcy will only be restored with the return of the displaced persons to Rakhine state,” Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at a media meet also attended by her Bangladeshi counterpart Abula Hassan Mahmood Ali.

This followed the fourth India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Committee meeting.

ALSO READ US will Provide $32 Million to Rohingyas As Humanitarian Aid Package

Sushma Swaraj did not use the word Rohingya to refer to the thousands who have taken shelter in Bangladesh and instead referred to them as displaced persons from Rakhine state, bdnews24.com reported.

She said India was “deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar”.

According to latest figures from the UN office in Bangladesh, over 600,000 refugees have entered the country since August 25 after the Myanmar Army cracked down on the Rohingyas after a series of attacks on security personnel in Rakhine.

Bangladesh Minister Ali said India was urged to contribute towards exerting sustained pressure on Myanmar to find a peaceful solution to the crisis, including return of Rohingyas to their homeland. (IANS)