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Raje, Swaraj, Irani, Munde: will Modi sack any of the four

Panini Anand | Updated on: 3 July 2015, 15:54 IST
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The tussle

  • Congress wants 4 BJP leaders to resign: Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje, Smriti Irani, Pankaja Munde
  • Swaraj and Raje are in trouble for their \'links\' with tainted former IPL boss Lalit Modi
  • Irani allegedly submitted fake degrees -- as education minister. Munde is being accused of corruption
  • BJP is unlikely to make any of them resign

The threats

  • Many in BJP feel the allegations have harmed the government\'s reputation
  • But giving in to the Opposition\'s demands would be a bigger mistake
  • If removed, Raje could turn rebel in Rajasthan. BJP\'s state unit and MLAs are behind her

What next

  • Modi plans to brazen out the storm
  • He will not respond to media demands for resignations
  • He remembers the clamour after Gujarat 2002. Knows the power of digging his heels in
  • By demanding the resignation of 4 leaders, Congress might end up with no scalp
  • But the party can stall the upcoming monsoon session, impacting the passage of several crucial Bills

Four women leaders of the BJP are under fire from the Congress. The party had already been demanding the resignation of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

It has now widened its attack to Union Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani and Pankaja Munde, Minister for Women and Child Development in Maharashtra.

On Wednesday, a Delhi court took cognisance of a complaint filed against Irani. The complaint accused her of giving false information about her educational qualifications.

In Maharashtra, the Congress has blamed the state government for a Rs 206 crore scam in the tenders cleared by Munde.

Swaraj and Raje are already in trouble because of their alleged connections to the tainted former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.

The main Opposition party is in no mood to let the BJP off the hook. It has been on non-stop attack mode for the past 10 days.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence has emboldened the Congress to up the ante even further.

The question is, will the BJP blink? Will any of these ministers resign?

Given the party's adamant defence, it seems unlikely that any of the 4 ministers will be asked to go.

"No minister is tainted," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday.

M Venkaiah Naidu, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Urban Development, said "there is no crisis in the BJP".

Those who understand Modi's style of functioning, say that he is unlikely to succumb to media pressure.

"Modi will not make anyone resign under pressure from the media. He faced similar pressure after the 2002 riots. He knows the power of digging his heels in," said a BJP source.

Many BJP leaders privately admit that the allegations have damaged the party's reputation.

"The party has suffered morally. We are going through the worst phase of the NDA government so far. But legally, not even a chargesheet has been filed against Lalit Modi. When no charges are framed against the man, how can you expect our ministers to go," says a senior BJP leader.

It isn't just the Congress that is attacking the BJP. Right wing ideologue KN Govindacharya, who used to be the BJP's general secretary, believes it is morally untenable for the ministers to continue.

"They must go. Morality, not the law, should be the basis of justice if one is committed to the politics of principles. The ruling government should take the initiative instead of telling the Opposition that they were also doing the same," he said.

Each case is different

Even though the party is defending all the four leaders, not all their cases are the same.

If senior BJP leaders are to be believed, Swaraj is in safe zone. Even the RSS wants her to remain.

Raje's case is more complicated, especially as the Congress has released the affidavit she signed in 2011, favouring Lalit Modi's immigration application.

The case against Irani is also a cause of worry for the party. Unlike Raje, Irani could actually be sent to jail if she is found guilty of providing fake educational qualifications.

"The case would not be easy to address. Look at the tone of opposition. They are demanding the resignation of Sushma and Vasundhara. But for Irani, they are saying 'sack her'.They are far more aggressive against her. This could be because she has been directly attacking the Gandhi family," a BJP leader said.

On the record, however, the party continues to defend Irani. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra dismissed the matter as a "typographical error, not a fake degree".

Pankaja Munde's case is more Maharashtra centric and the party feels it is too early to draw any conclusion regarding the allegations against her.

The party's main worry, as of now, is Rajasthan.

Rajasthan's royal mess

BJP president Amit Shah has told his core team to address the crisis in Rajasthan.

A party source says, "Rather than the Opposition's attacks, the main challenge is to keep party MLAs and state unit united.

Vasundhara Raje can even turn rebel if any action is taken against her. She controls both the party and the government in the state. Acting against her would be a bigger mistake than standing with her".

The party has more than 3/4th of the seats in the 200 member Rajasthan Assembly. With such a majority, it would be hard for the party to remove Raje.

The Rajasthan unit of the party has already indicated that the MLAs stand with the chief minister. Raje faced many attacks even in her previous term, but all attempts to remove her failed.

"Who knows, if she rebels, the same Congress that wants her out, will help her form a government in the state," said a BJP source.

Moreover, with the Congress in Rajasthan a divided house, it won't be easy for the party to sustain its attack on Raje.

The BJP also feels that to sacrifice leaders so early in its tenure, would mean playing into the Opposition's hands.

A BJP leader told Catch, "We have over 3 years to go for elections in Rajasthan and almost 4 years in the Centre. Do you think the Opposition will stop at anyone's resignation? They will come up with the issues like Rafale deal, Spice Jet and Sun TV. Resignation means an admission of misconduct."

Party leaders also cite the examples of Kalyan Singh and BS Yeddyurappa to assert that sacrificing popular leaders would be disastrous for the party.

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Axeing these leaders lost the BJP both UP and Karnataka.

However, sections of the RSS and its affiliates feel that the Opposition's allegations are harming the BJP's image.

Taking action against Raje might be a bigger mistake than backing her. She controls government and party in Rajasthan

"These things are not good for the organisation. This should be countered in a proper way by the party. Removing individuals is not a solution. In fact, these kind of steps have always worsened matters." says an RSS insider.

Another RSS leader believes that PM Modi's silence is harming the party. "He was the face for the mandate we got in the Centre and the states. All this will harm him," the leader said.

Govindacharya is of the same view. "The prime minister must speak now and take strict action. Give these responsibilities to new and promising people," he says.

The BJP may try to brazen it out but then it will have trouble ensuring the smooth functioning of Parliament. The party could be pinning its hopes on a division in the Opposition's ranks.

Belligerent opposition

As of now, the Opposition parties are in no mood to relent.

"It is the responsibility of the Opposition to raise issues in the Parliament. It is not as if we do not want the Parliament to run. We have co-operated with the government on many bills. But this is such a serious matter and the Prime Minister is completely silent," said Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmad.

Taking a potshot at twitter-savvy PM, Ahmad said, "He has not even sent out a single tweet. Why doesn't he feel the need to tweet on a matter involving the country's foreign minister? If he agrees to our demands, well and good. Otherwise, we will be forced to continue our protests inside Parliament as well as outside."

The Left also criticised the PM's silence.

"BJP was in denial mode till now. Now it is in silent mode. After meeting Manmohan Singh at his residence, Prime Minister Modi seems to have picked up lessons from him," said CPI(M) leader Mohammad Saleem.

Backing the Congress' demands, Saleem added "We are clear that the foreign minister's position has become untenable. She must resign. Vasundhara Raje's complicity has been clearly established. She must resign too. Smriti Irani's case was raised very early on and the government has just been evading action. If the HRD minister of the country is submitting fake degrees, she should be sacked".

What may harm the Opposition's cause is that it is attacking too many targets. In the end, it might not be able to get a single scalp.

A senior journalist and observer of BJP's politics, Ram Bahadur Rai explains, "In politics, when the guns are pointed against many instead of one, there are less possibilities of damage. It looks like no one is going to quit".

"The Lalit Modi case is becoming another Hawala. Hawala had 104 names. Out of them 54 were politicians. When more than one party comes under the scanner, hardly any action gets taken," he adds.

With inputs from Charu Kartikeya

First published: 3 July 2015, 15:54 IST
 
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.

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