Lalit Modi’s claim that he had “run into” Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Robert Vadra in London triggered fresh war of words between Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress today in the escalating row over the help rendered to the tainted former IPL boss by two leaders of the saffron party.
BJP alleged links between Lalit Modi and the Gandhi family while the Congress said it was a case of ‘chhota Modi’ helping ‘bada Modi’ (Narendra Modi) with lies”.
Lalit Modi had last night tweeted, “Happy to meet the Gandhi family… in London. I had run into Robert and Priyanka separately in a restaurant”.
BJP, which charged that it was these links which had “prevented” Lalit Modi’s extradition under UPA rule, demanded that Congress President Sonia Gandhi make a statement on the matter.
That invited a sharp attack from the opposition, which said that Lalit Modi’s tweets were a case of “chhota Modi” helping “bada Modi” (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) through “lies”.
Seeking to turn the tables on Congress, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Today’s big revelation is the fact that Lalit Modi had met the Gandhi family. Only yesterday he met Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra. Why have they met him?
“Let me categorically put today that the issue is about Lalit Modi and Gandhi family… BJP demands Sonia Gandhi make a statement why the Gandhi family has been in touch with Lalit Modi all these years.”
Patra further claimed that the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram “did not want Lalit Modi’s extradition from Britain despite the fact that UK was ready for extradition”.
“Who was preventing them? The Gandhi family,” he alleged. “The matter starts and ends at the door of 10, Janpath.”
But lashing out at BJP over the charges, Congress said that running into anybody in a restaurant was not a crime and that Lalit Modi was working at the behest of BJP to divert attention to “non-issues”.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that BJP should tell its “black money stooges to not rely on red-herrings” to divert attention from the issue.
The government must answer to the people about the allegations against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, he added.
“I can say with full responsibility that neither Priyanka Gandhi nor Robert Vadra ever interacted with Lalit Modi socially. If you see somebody in a restaurant, it is not a crime. ‘Chhota Modi’ is helping ‘bada Modi’ with lies.
“It is a diversionary tactic of BJP to turn the attention towards non-issues. The government should speak about real issues and not hide behind Lalit Modi,” Surjewala told reporters.
Reiterating his party’s demand for the sacking of Swaraj and Raje, Surjewala said they had helped a fugitive accused of “fraud of gigantic proportions”.