The monsoon session of Parliament is about to come to an end without any business being transacted due to the disruption created by Opposition parties (mainly the Congress) over the failure of the government even to make a statement in the House about the action intended against errant ministers involved in a few serious scams, leave alone initiating action. And now the government’s plea is that Parliament is being prevented from functioning due to kind of action launched by the Opposition as the BJP itself was so adept at when it was in the Opposition. All that is really happening is that the BJP is being paid back in its own coin regardless of the cost to the tion! [When Parliament is in session, every minute of its functioning costs Rs 2.5 lakh.] What has aggravated matters is the Lok Sabha Speaker’s decision to suspend 25 Congress MPs for disruption of proceedings. However, the suspension of 25 MPs has obviously made matters easier for Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to claim that she had been trying to explain her position during the more turbulent days of the monsoon session but had not succeeded. On Thursday, a quieter Lok Sabha with empty Congress benches (due to the party’s boycott of the proceedings) apparently made it possible for Sushma Swaraj to explain her position, and she decided to make use of emotiol appeals to the hilt.
Shorn of the frills of what might be called her revised confession of “sin”, this is what she had to say on Thursday: (1) The gross diplomatic improprieties she had committed were not for the benefit of Lalit Modi, but for his ailing wife who had been battling cancer for 17 years and undergoing treatment in a Portugal hospital. (2) Doctors had told Lalit Modi’s wife that since her disease was “life threatening” her husband should be beside her. (3) Sushma Swaraj was helping not Lalit but his wife who was an Indian citizen and had not been accused of any crime. (4) If helping such a woman was a sin, then she was prepared to accept her sin and to undergo whatever punishment “this House wants to give”. [Considering that she had done everything possible to escape well-deserved punishment, one can safely dismiss the last of the statements as pure ritual made for the sake of appearances and not meant to be taken seriously.]
The Foreign Minister’s belated defence in the Lok Sabha really counts for very little. And that is precisely why she had to rely so much on a highly emotiol appeal. There are several questions that she still has to answer. Even if her Good Samaritan task on humanitarian grounds was really performed for the benefit of Lalit Modi’s wife, why did she go about her job in such a clandestine manner? Why did she not inform the government and the Foreign secretary? Why did she keep the Indian mission and the High Commissioner in Britain out of the loop? After all, it is the High Commissioner’s job to take care of such problems. She now claims that whatever she did was for the sake of Lalit Modi’s wife. But does she not realize that what she did in bypassing the normal diplomatic channels was to give Lalit Modi a totally undeserved and high recommendation? For the Foreign Minister to tell the British government that India would have no objections if the British government issued Lalit Modi travel documents is to give him a very high recommendation. And this was being done in respect of a crimil against whom as many as 16 Enforcement Directorate notices were pending. And how can the Foreign Minister escape legitimate charges of conflict of interest when members of her family were associated with Lalit Modi? The Speaker of the Lok Sabha would do well to take her “confession” and her offer seriously by punishing her. But this would be like asking for the moon considering that the Speaker can actually be expected to go out of her way to save Sushma Swaraj regardless of how odd this might seem.