New Delhi, July 25: Hoping to deflect the opposition flak, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Saturday said she did not recommend travel documents for former IPL chief Lalit Modi. But the Congress said she should quit on grounds of propriety.
In a string of tweets, Sushma Swaraj said: “I am saying this time and again that I never requested or recommended travel documents for Lalit Modi.”
“I left this to the UK government to decide under their own laws and regulations. And that is what they did,” she said.
However, the Congress said Sushma Swaraj should quit for “misuse” of her position and on grounds of propriety.
“Only Sushma Swaraj can make recommendation. She has misused her position by helping a fugitive like Lalit Modi,” Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko said.
The minister declined several requests from Twitter users to hold a press conference to clear her name, saying she was accountable only to parliament.
“As a minister I am accountable to parliament. That is the only forum to inform the nation,” she tweeted.
When the controversy broke out last month, Sushma Swaraj said she recommended Lalit Modi be given travel documents to go to Portugal for treatment of his cancer-stricken wife on “humanitarian grounds”.
With some Twitter users asking if she would help ordinary Indians too similarly, she replied: “I help people every day. That too on a single tweet.”
Her tweets come as parliament has been paralysed since it convened on Tuesday for the monsoon session, with the Opposition creating a ruckus with demands for her resignation and of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over their links to Lalit Modi and for the resignation of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam recruitment scam.
On Saturday, Sushma Swaraj said she agreed to a debate in parliament on the very day it opened for the monsoon session, and added that Congress members were not allowing the debate to take place.
Asked if she telephoned British politician Keith Vaz to request the British government to let Lalit Modi travel to Portugal, she said: “This is absolutely false.”
The Enforcement Directorate has charged Lalit Modi with financial irregularities with regard to the IPL and wants him to return to India for questioning.
Congress spokesperson Chacko said that when former railway minister P.K. Bansal of the Congress was under fire over a recruitment scam, at the time Sushma Swaraj said in parliament that it was a matter of propriety, and Bansal resigned from his post.
“Till now the allegations on Bansal have not been proven, but he still resigned on grounds of propriety. Sushma Swaraj should come to parliament, but she should resign on grounds of propriety,” he said.
In June, Sushma Swaraj, reacting to a Sunday Times expose on her links with Lalit Modi had in a series of tweets said the former IPL commissioner had spoken to her in July 2014 about his wife and that the surgery was fixed for August 4.
“He told me that he had to be present in the hospital to sign the consent papers,” Sushma tweeted.
“He informed me that he had applied for travel documents in London and UK government was prepared to give him the travel documents.
“However, they were restrained by a UPA government communication that this will spoil Indo-UK relations,” she added.
“Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi – that will not spoil our bilateral relations,” said the minister.