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Modi Government stands by Sushma Swaraj on Lalit Modi row as fissures within BJP resurface

New Delhi(dna): The government is brazening it out to stand by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is in the eye of the storm for helping fugitive Lalit Modi to obtain British travel papers, as some political rivals broke ranks with Opposition to support her and a couple of tweets from within the BJP pointed to an inner strife.

Even as Congress sharpened its tirade bringing Prime Minister Narendra Modi in its line of fire, the government appears to be hoping that the Opposition onslaught on the issue may die down as there was division among the political opponents on their approach towards Swaraj.

Rejecting the demands for her resignation, the government retaliated by asking Congress “who let Lalit Modi escape”. A day after BJP president Amit Shah defended Swaraj saying she had acted on humanitarian grounds, Union minister Prakash Javadekar was fielded at the BJP headquarters after the Congress release photographs showing Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Lalit Modi.

“These are photographs of 2010. Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. It was a cricket match and at that time there was no allegation against Lalit Modi then. There are hundreds of photographs of Jyotiraditya Scindia with the then IPL chairman,” Javadekar said. However, he left without taking any questions from the media.

According to government sources, the extent of impropriety in the case is not being seen as serious enough to ask the minister to step down. But, what gives credence to the case is the background — the links of her family with Lalit Modi. The government would brush off any perception that it had bailed Modi out and not Swaraj at an individual level, sources said. The party, which had made integrity a key plank in its election campaign, cannot afford to allow it to be weakened.

Meanwhile, the familiar story of feud within the BJP has come to the fore again. Indicating that it was a conspiracy by a party insider, MP Kirti Azad tweeted “asteen ka saanp & Arnab conspire against BJP leaders. Guess the snake? Stand with Sushma Swaraj”.

Sources, who have seen Swaraj closely, are of the view that she may not take the attack on her integrity lying down, particularly with her family being drawn into the controversy. It’s her husband Swaraj Kaushal, a politically astute criminal lawyer, who has played a significant role in her career, they said. In 2009, when she was to decide between fighting the Lok Sabha polls from either Delhi or Vidisha, it was Swaraj Kaushal who did the home work and advised her to contest from Vidisha, the sources said.

However, it was also Kaushal who took on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he was Rajya Sabha MP, which would have apparently embarrassed Sushma Swaraj. It was LK Advani who had got her into the cabinet.

In 2013, during the Rajasthan election campaign, Lalit Modi had tweeted alleging that BJP leader Arun Jaitley was conspiring against Vasundhara Raje. The same year, Jaitley, who is not seen to be on the best of terms with Sushma Swaraj, headed the disciplinary committee of BCCI which in inquiry report made a scathing attack on Lali Modi.

Meanwhile, after RJD and NCP, the SP has come out in support of Swaraj saying it was not a crime to help people in need.

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