The campaign for the ouster of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was today met with a strong counter-offensive when she launched a no-holds-barred attack on Congress accusing it of having taken money to help Ottavio Quattrochchi and Warren Anderson flee India even as the government rejected the demand for her resignation.
Taking the floor after a number of searching questions were raised by Congress group leader Mallikarjun Kharge, Swaraj’s charges against late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and his government and the attack on Rahul Gandhi escalated further tensions between the opposition and government as a washed-out session of Parliament comes to an end tomorrow.
On the penultimate day of the month-long session, which was paralysed over the Congress demand for Swaraj’s resignation, the two sides settled for a discussion on an adjournment motion that was often acrimonious.
At the end of the day, the adjournment motion was defeated by a voice after Congress walked out of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jatiley rejected the demand for her resignation saying all the allegations against “are baseless”.
Kharge, who moved an adjournment motion, raised a number of queries over Swaraj’s help to former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, a “fugitive”, in getting travel document “in stealth” to go outside London when law enforcement agencies were looking for him here.
He accused her of involved in conflict of interest because her husband and daughter were lawyers for Modi, which she rejected saying the two did not appear in the case of Modi’s passport cancellation and did not take a single rupee as fees.
But things got personal when Swaraj began her reply and launched into a fusillade against Gandhi and the Congress governments in the past including the one headed by his late father Rajiv Gandhi.
Swaraj referred to Rahul’s attack on her that she indulged in a criminal act and helped a “fugitive flee” from law in “stealth”.
“Sushma does not do anything in stealth. If there was anyone who indulged in stealth it was the Rajiv Gandhi government that helped Union Carbide’s chief Warren Anderson to flee from India in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster.
“It was the Congress government that helped Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrochchi to flee from India. Rahul Gandhi, who she said often shows interest in taking two-month holidays, should sit in isolation and go into the history of Congress governments.
“Come back and ask your mother how much money did Quattrocchi give. Why was Warren Anderson, who was responsible for the deaths of 15,000 people, allowed to go out of the country,” she said in her speech that riled the Congress benches.
Later, Rahul Gandhi himself took the floor and hit back at Swaraj saying she helped Lalit Modi because her family (husband and daughter) were the lawyers for him.
“I ask Sushma Swaraj how much money you got for rescuing Modi. You must be the only person in the world to help a person on humanitarian grounds in stealth,” he said.
He accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of maintaining silence and cited Gandhiji’s three monkeys to claim that Modi “does not see truth, does not speak truth and does not hear truth”. Modi is not in the House because he does not have the guts to face truth, Rahul said.
He said the prime minister was not talking on the issue after having promised to bring blackmoney back to the country and putting Rs. 15 lakh in everybody’s account.
“Mr Lalit Modi is the symbol of black money in the country. IPL is the symbol of blackmoney in the country,” he said.