As Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faces more heat over the controversies surrounding four of its women ministers, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) today staged protests here and demanded that they be sacked and targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “inaction”.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje are embroiled in a row over extending help to tainted former IPL boss Lalit Modi while HRD Minister Smriti Irani faced trouble with a Delhi court taking cognizance of a complaint against her for allegedly misrepresenting educational qualifications in her election affidavits. Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde is the fourth minister caught in a row.
Sharpening its attack on BJP after the emergence of a document backing Lalit Modi’s immigration application in the UK which purportedly bears Raje’s signature, the Congress said the party should ask the Chief Minister to step down as it can no longer “continue to defend the indefensible”.
“I am of the opinion that after what has now been made public, there is absolutely no scope left, no face left for BJP to manoeuvre and defend its leadership,” it said.
“There cannot be two laws in this country. One for common citizens and one for high-ranking BJP officials. Therefore… I think it is in the best interest of the state and also of BJP to ask the chief minister to put in her papers as soon as possible,” Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot said.
Dismissing as being “lame” BJP’s claim that the signature in the said document are forged, Pilot said, “I don’t think it is possible for anyone to put up that lame an argument… And, if she had to deny the signatures, she should have done it perhaps in the beginning.”
Pilot’s remarks came amid reports that claimed that the signature on the affidavit to help Modi get UK stay permit indeed belonged to Raje putting the chief minister and the BJP leadership in a spot. There was no official word yet on the authenticity of the signature.
The BJP has rejected demands for resignation of the ministers.
Congress staged twin protests at Jantar Mantar and outside its headquarters and demanded the immediate resignation of Swaraj, Irani and Raje.
The protesters also tore an effigy of Irani and placards inscribed with messages that mocked the “farce” of her academic qualifications and warned the government against “toying with education”.
Scores of AAP workers staged a protest outside Irani’s residence demanding her resignation.
Congress’s Delhi unit chief Lalit Maken accused the prime minister of “inaction” in the wake of the raging controversies involving his party leaders.
He also raised the issue of allegations against Munde and accused her of “playing with the health of children”.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Munde, however, said “prima facie” there appears to be no discrepancies in the case involving her department, as alleged by the opposition.
Munde, who is the Minister for Women and Development, was at the centre of a controversy with the Congress accusing her of involvement in a “scam” by clearing purchases worth Rs 206 crore on a single day instead of inviting tenders in violation of the norms.