While political pundits have been busy speculating whether or not Narendra Modi is responsible for the current Lalit Modi-related troubles faced by Sushma Swaraj, main opposition party Congress is busy trying to ensure that Modi does not reap any benefits from the weakening of Swaraj.
Sushma Swaraj was seen as one of the three probably prime ministerial candidates of the Bhartiya Janata Party before last year’s election, but found herself sidelined after Narendra Modi was made the face of the BJP campaign on practical considerations.
Modi was seen as crucial in the party’s attempt to makeover its image from an upper-caste dominated outfit to a broadbased organization. While Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are Brahmins, Rajnath Singh — the third probable — was Khastriya.
Modi’s status as a member of a backward caste and his projection as the prime ministerial candiate played a big role in reassuring the masses that BJP had a broad agenda, and led to an emphatic win for the party in last year’s elections.
Swaraj is reportedly yet to come to terms with the sudden rise of Modi, whom many in the Lutyen’s circle reportedly still consider an outsider.
In an attempt to win over the right-wing constituency, Swaraj had a few months ago said she was in favor of making Bhagawat Gita the national scripture of India. This had put Prime Minister Modi, who was trying to play down his hardline image and promote inclusiveness, in a tough spot.
Modi’s response to Swaraj’s suggestion came in a government advertisement a few weeks later on the occasion of India’s independence day: The ad proclaimed – our only holy book is the Constitution.
It is therefore widely speculated that Modi, or some other equally powerful rival of Swaraj’s within the party, may have something to do with the leakage of information that she helped the founder of Indian Premier League Lalit Modi obtain travel documents from the British government.
The Congress Party is trying to ensure that it is able to use any such internal discord within the BJP to inflict maximum damage on Narendra Modi, which it sees as a bigger threat to itself than Sushma Swaraj.
In many ways, Congress fears that the weakening of Swaraj within the BJP may actually hurt Congress by making Modi’s position virtually unassailable.
And it is trying to drag Modi into the controversy by questioning how Swaraj could have written to the UK government without taking permission from the Prime Minister.
“Could External Affairs Minister withdraw written communication and objection of government of India, without the consent of the Prime Minister, finance minister? Does it not prove PM’s role,” asked spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala today.
It, however, remains to be seen who benefits and who suffers from the current controversy.