WHY did External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj convey to the UK government that she had no objection to them granting travel documents to Lalit Modi, the kingpin of the biggest IPL scam, to enable him to fly to Portugal? Lalit Modi fled India when the IPL betting scam broke out and has been staying in the UK since then. He was wanted by the investigating agencies probing the scam, including the Enforcement Directorate. The charges against him are extremely serious: the BCCI found him guilty of “serious misconduct and indiscipline” and expelled him. The UPA-II government wanted him extradited to India but he has been preventing that from happening using litigation. The UPA-II government had conveyed to the UK government that Modi should not be granted documents to travel out of the UK. If the UK government did so, bilateral relations between India and the UK could be soured. With such strong warning from India, the UK government refused to grant travel documents to him. Why did the super-patriotic NDA government withdraw the warning?
When the news of Sushma Swaraj conveying no-objection to the UK government first broke out it seemed it was entirely her decision as External Affairs Minister. But within hours the entire NDA government, including PMO and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and the entire BJP led by president Amit Shah as well as the RSS came out chanting in one voice that Sushma Swaraj had done the right thing! They backed her on two grounds. One, her ‘nationalistic’ credentials are beyond doubt. Now, who doubts her nationalistic credentials? We all remember with what fanatical zeal of nationalism she had threatened to shave her head if the ‘Italian-born’ Sonia Gandhi became prime minister. The question is, why did she give her nationalistic zealotry a holiday in case of Lalit Modi?
There are various theories. One of them is that her daughter Bansuri Swaraj, who is a lawyer, is among the legal counsels Lalit Modi has hired. Another theory is that her husband too provided legal counsel to him. A third theory is that British Labour MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz helped Sushma Swaraj’s nephew to get admission in one of the colleges in the UK. British media has reported that Keith Vaz asked Sushma Swaraj to “put pressure on UK’s top immigration official” to grant British travel papers to Modi. Vaz appears to have been going out of way to help Modi. British media investigations found that Vaz personally wrote to Sarah Rapson, the director-general of UK visas and immigration, in an effort to expedite Modi’s case. Vaz was then chairman of the influential House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in which role he was required to scrutinise and hold to account the work of Rapson and her department.
The second argument of RSS-BJP in defence of Sushma Swaraj is that she made the decision on ‘humanitarian grounds’ as Modi’s wife was suffering from cancer and he had to be in Portugal to sign consent before her operation. Now, in how many cases scam kingpins have been allowed such and other liberties on humanitarian grounds? Going by the logic, our External Affairs Minister would perhaps convey no-objection to Dawood Ibrahim travelling to any country including India on a humanitarian ground. No defence of Sushma Swaraj’s decision is acceptable. It is a plain favour to a leading wanted criminal who has been evading Indian law and justice. It is against India’s interest.
Sad Day for Yoga
IT is a pity that the International Yoga Day congregation scheduled for June 21 at the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee stadium had to be cancelled by the state education department. For this the government alone is to blame. It should have weighed in the issues raised by the people of minority faiths about ‘surya namaskar’. Although yoga has gained a worldwide popularity and is practised even in countries where people of non-Hindu faiths constitute a majority, the representatives of religious minorities in India hold that ‘surya namaskar’ implies bowing to the sun god which their faiths do not permit. The Goa government should have anticipated these objections and excluded ‘surya namaskar’ from the yoga exercises in the all-Goa congregation at the Mukherjee stadium. The government probably realised its mistake after the media highlighted the issues. Yoga can make an excellent regime for young and old to keep their body and mind highly active. It must be promoted in schools, colleges, clubs and recreational halls of offices of business organisations. The state education department must issue guidelines to educational institutions in this regard. The sports directorate must pick and groom talents for yoga sports competitions.