First Lalitgate Casualty, Raje’s London Trip
Nitin Gadkari’s surprise visit to meet Vasundhara Raje, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, in Jaipur led to the speculation that he was there to persuade her to resign and become a martyr and desist from splitting the party.
One does not know what came out of the meet but it certainly resulted in Raje cancelling her trip to London. This is a correct move. Her going to London where Lalit Modi is living, in the middle of a massive controversy over her links with him would have damaged her reputation further. Raje’s office said that she will instead take part in a meeting of the new plan panel—Niti Aayog—on the weekend. She was to travel to London for an investors’ meet, along with a delegation. “Ms Raje has cancelled her foreign visit because of the important Niti Aayog meeting,” said a press note.
The Chief Minister is yet to make any public statement on documents revealed by Lalit Modi which showed that she had agreed to secretly support his immigration application to the UK at a time he was being investigated for corruption in India. The BJP was seen to have distanced itself from her, offering muted defence at best, and saying she needed to clarify her position. But then she received strong support for the first time from her party after senior union minister Nitin Gadkari met her. “The whole party is behind her,” said Mr Gadkari, “she has done nothing illegal.”
However, Raje, 62, faces more than one allegation regarding her connections to Lalit Modi, who left India for London in 2010 amid a flurry of corruption allegations linked to his tenure as the boss of the multi-billion dollar Indian Premier League or IPL he created. Days after Lalit Modi disclosed Ms Raje’s secret testimony for his immigration appeal, it emerged that the Chief Minister’s son Dushyant Singh, a parliamentarian, was the beneficiary of what appears to be a sweetheart deal from Lalit Modi. The cricket honcho paid Rs. 96,000 for shares in a company owned by Mr Singh, who, in his income tax returns, claims the value of the shares to be just Rs. 10 each. The BJP has said that Mr Singh paid the due taxes on the transaction, but the deal is reportedly being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.