Two to tangle

Double trouble Double trouble: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and husband Swaraj Kaushal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence might help him, but it certainly hasn't helped External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. After providing support initially, Modi and the party left it to them to defend themselves. Now, certain BJP leaders say the two ministers have been “working overtime to pull each other down”.

Said a source: “The leadership was never really united, with each one trying to go up by edging out rivals. It is so now also.” When Swaraj's “humanitarian help” put her in the spotlight, said the source, she sought Lalit Modi's help to bail her out. He did so by having documents against Raje leaked. The focus then shifted to the former royal, and Swaraj gathered support from the government, the party and even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The Congress pounced on the opportunity and investigated Raje's assets and links with Lalit Modi. Their business partnership made her part of the black money discourse as well. Soon, however, news broke that Swaraj's husband, Swaraj Kaushal, had been offered a place on the board of a company owned by Lalit Modi. “It appears as if they will not allow each other to breathe free if one of them is axed,” said a BJP source.

Meanwhile, BJP sources in Rajasthan said the Congress attack on Raje has, if anything, strengthened her. “It is a feudal state where people still love their former royals. Vasundhara has not yet become unpopular; she accomplished her Mission 25 [clean sweep in the state elections] a year ago. So there is not only support of her MLAs, but also popular support,” said a BJP source.

The BJP has decided not to upset the apple cart for now. Apparently, it will go the full hog against the real villain, Lalit Modi, and, if possible, present some results before the monsoon session of Parliament. “We will show we don't support Lalit Modi. That is what the debate is all about,” said a BJP minister.

The government will move on the 16 Enforcement Directorate cases against him and could appeal against his passport restoration. The government might also seek his extradition from the UK.

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