Wednesday, 8 July 2015

LALIT MODI AND THE RECENT CONTROVERSY

The NDA government  recently celebrated its first anniversary by claiming a corruption-free record, but the first blemish has emerged. The main issue in the present controversy relates to the propriety of the external affairs minister’s involvement in facilitating Lalit Modi’s request to British immigration authorities to let him travel to Portugal to attend to his wife’s serious illness.
Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj has so far enjoyed an impeccable career. But she committed an impropriety by coming to the aid of Lalit Modi, who is wanted for questioning on foreign exchange violations amounting to Rs. 425 crore from the time he was the chief of cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL). He has a blue-corner notice pending against him at Indian ports and airports. However, citing ‘humanitarian grounds’, Swaraj turned to British Labour MP Keith Vaz, and the British High Commissioner in India to plead his case.

The   ‘humanitarian’ argument is specious. Lalit Modi had maintained that he needed to be present by his wife’s side because he had to sign ‘ consent papers’ for her surgery. But Portuguese laws do not stipulate any such compulsory procedure. Equally suspicious is the explanation trotted out by her supporters, that she not only acted out of the goodness of her heart but also because of her unalloyed nationalism: She rushed to provide succour to an Indian citizen in distress.
This Lalit Modi affair, which has embarrassed the Modi administration and the BJP for shining the torch on controversial close ties of former IPL Czar's with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has many lessons for the government.  It is obvious that even ministers as senior as Sushma Swaraj have been unable – or unwilling – to understand conflict of interest issues. While Swaraj may have helped Lalit Modi to get his travel documents from the UK government purely out of humanitarian considerations, surely she could not have been unaware of the fact that her spouse and daughter had connections to him.

The Prime Minister must thus put in place rules for his ministers and bureaucrats so that when there is a conflict of interest involved, they must either be disclosed or they must distance themselves from these decisions.


Noble Ssrivastava 

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