As with Sushma, PM mum over Jaitley too

As with Sushma, PM mum over Jaitley too

By: || Updated: 21 Dec 2015 08:27 AM
New Delhi: The BJP described Kirti Azad's "insinuations" against Arun Jaitley as "foolish and a repetition of old stuff", but not a word came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or party president Amit Shah.

Modi, who is in Kutch for a weekend conference of police chiefs, had remained mum last summer too when allegations of impropriety and corruption were raised against foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

It was several days before Shah issued statements backing the ministers.

This contrasted starkly with the promptness with which Modi and Shah had defended home minister Rajnath Singh in August last year following news reports that the Prime Minister had rapped Rajnath's son Pankaj for financial misconduct.

When Pankaj was denied a by-election ticket from Uttar Pradesh soon after, there were suggestions that Modi was unhappy with him and his father.

An upset Rajnath told the media he would quit politics if even a single charge, big or small, was prime facie proved against him or his family.

Within hours, the Prime Minister's Office had put out a denial of the reports, calling them "plain lies, motivated and constituting a malicious attempt at character assassination and tainting the government's image". Shah debunked the reports as "baseless and imaginary".

That has been the only time Modi has taken a stand on an allegation levelled against a senior BJP politician.

There were murmurs in the party today against cricketer turned MP Kirti, though.

Party spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said Kirti's "insinuations against Jaitley are foolish and a repetition of old stuff".

He said some of the charges related to the period after Jaitley's 13-year tenure in the cricket body ended in 2013. He called the inquiry ordered by Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal a "political gimmick".

A party official who wouldn't be quoted said it was "high time something was done" to rein in Kirti. "He thinks he's smart but he's too clever by half. And why did he play the CD?" he said.

The comments reflected a growing sense in the party that Modi and Shah ought to crack the whip against Kirti.

Strained ties

Kejriwal's announcement about former solicitor-general Gopal Subramaniam heading the probe would not evoke pleasant memories in the Modi government and the BJP.

In June last year, a month after Modi was sworn in, then Chief Justice R.M. Lodha had sent four names, including those of former solicitors-general Subramaniam and Rohinton Fali Nariman, for appointment as Supreme Court judges.

The government returned Subramaniam's name with a request to reconsider it. In response, Subramaniam withdrew his candidacy.

Government sources had then privately alleged that Subramaniam had, as a CBI lawyer looking into the 2G scam, "violated protocol" by meeting the counsel for one of the accused, former telecom minister A. Raja. Subramaniam maintains his conduct has been above board.

Subramaniam had been amicus curiae in the case involving the killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh by the Gujarat police in 2005, when Modi was chief minister. Based on certain findings he brought out, the Supreme Court had ordered a CBI probe.

In his letter to Justice Lodha withdrawing his candidature, Subramaniam had accused the Centre of a "dirt-digging exercise".

He alleged he was being targeted for "displaying integrity and independence" in the Sohrabuddin case that led to the framing of a murder charge against Shah, then junior home minister in Gujarat. Shah was arrested but later released for lack of evidence.

Asked why he had chosen Subramaniam, a source close to Kejriwal said: "The basket was small. Subramaniam is an eminent lawyer who has burnt his bridges with the present government and is, therefore, unlikely to be considered for an official position or assignment."

He added: "We also appreciate the strong streak of activism in him - he had helped the Justice J.S. Verma committee, set up after the Delhi gang rape. We need someone strong to cogently counter the Centre's contention that the Delhi government is not authorised to set up a probe panel."

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