Sushma Swaraj: Hurt but not out

Sushma Swaraj and Modi Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj | AFP

Yeah, she has erred I agree. But she should continue, I hope she does". That was a Whatsapp message from a female entrepreneur in Bengaluru, asking about the latest on the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj story. Will she resign? Will she be sacked? Her messages expressed hope that she will continue in office.

The Sushma fan also knows and believes that she has erred, and grossly so, in helping fugitive Lalit Modi with freedom to have fun with his black money—said to be the loot of the IPL he fathered. And also glossing over the conflict of interest she faced—her husband Swaraj Kaushal and daughter Bansuri were the legal eagles for the flamboyant man who cares a hoot for law—Indian or otherwise.

There are indications that she won't be sacked or asked to resign. But it is not because of any newfound fondness Prime Minister Narendra Modi has for her. He will support and retain her where she is, because he does not want to give the Opposition an opportunity to score a political brownie point.

While they were in the opposition, the BJP gloated over the many “wickets” they took in the UPA regime. Suresh Kalmadi, the head of Indian Olymic Association was sacked thanks to the Commonwealth Games scam. Then home minister Shivraj Patil fell to the terror strike at Mumbai's Taj Hotel in 2008. Then Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal was thrown out of the cabinet when it was found that his nephew had taken money for promotion to a senior post in the Railways. Ashwini Kumar, the minister of state for law, was ejected when it became clear he had whetted CBI files that were to be presented in the Supreme Court in the coal scam. Ashok Chauhan, chief minister of Maharashtra, had to go for his involvement in the Adarsh Housing Society scam.

Individuals lost ministerial berths, but the entire party—the Congress—was punished by the people, as BJP asked them to vote out the scam ridden party of leaders who are corrupt and cannot govern. So Sushma Swaraj may not become the first wicket to fall. There are a couple of other reasons why she will stay put.

The BJP will be able to fish out cases where the ministers in the UPA regime have similarly used their position to favour people. Rahul Gandhi's admission to Harvard for one. The time he was caught with excessive money, again in the US, with then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee playing uncle and rescuing him.

Sushma has impressed all with her good work as a leader, be it in her party, the Parliament or her constituency. She has friends and admirers across the political divide. That goodwill will also count with the party.

Yet she has hit herself where it hurts. Any story on her, even 50 years from now, will come with the add-on line, “Sushma Swaraj, who helped the controversial fugitive Lalit Modi...etc etc.” It is indeed an indelible scar, for the Lalit Modi-Sushma Swaraj expose has perennial recall value.

Tailpiece: Years ago, Rupan Deol Bajaj, the Punjab cadre IAS officer (since retired) was pursuing a case against super cop K.P.S. Gill, for outraging her modesty. She wanted the court to punish him with a token one rupee deduction from his pension. How will a one rupee deduction matter? “When he receives his passbook or pension slip or whatever, it will show the pension, and it will show 'the deduction on account of verdict in the case... .' He can never forget his crime”, she explained.

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