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PM Talks Mann Ki Baat, Remains Silent On Lalitgate; Opposition Sees Conspiracy

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Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for being silent on Lalit Modi row and other controversies, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh has alleged that he was helping the former IPL chief in ED cases against him. Not one to bow to media pressure or opposition tactics, Narendra Modi refused to open his mouth on the Lalitgate controversy even as Congress and other Opposition parties racheted up the attack on the NDA government on Sunday (28 June).
 
Modi today spoke about a number of social issues in his monthly radio address but chose to avoid any reference to the political storm that has been generated by Lalit Modi issue.
 
"Every Sunday he (Narendra Modi) talks about 'Mann ki Baat', but doesn't answer the basic questions which have emerged over the past fortnight ever since the Lalit Modi controversy came up. My charge is that Narendra Modi is helping Lalit Modi. My charge is that he has promised Lalit Modi that he will be bailed out of all the cases in which he is being investigated by Enforcement Directorate (ED)," Singh told reporters here.
 
The Opposition is also up in arms as the External Affairs Ministry has declined to provide information about the controversy surrounding restoration of former IPL boss Lalit Modi's passport.  With External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj facing opposition onslaught over 'Lalitgate', the denial of her office has drwn sharp criticism from Congress and the Left. This together with PM Modi skipping the issue on his monthly radio address Mann ki Baat as well as senior BJP leader LK Advani's veiled criticism on the subject, has given further ammunition to the Opposition.
 
"It is in the interest of PM to take action against the culprits... If he does not break his silence, people will start asking for his resignation," said senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, referring to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje.
 
His other senior party colleagues P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh as also CPI's D Raja and AAP leader Ashish Khetan criticised the Prime Minister.
 
In his 'Mann Ki Baat' programme on radio, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday (28 June) refrained from speaking on politics or the recent controversies surrounding Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj over the Lalit Modi issue which some quarters were expecting
 
Advani's Veiled Criticism Of Modi Govt
In light of senior BJP leader LK Advani emphasising the need for probity in public life, opposition parties said that Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhra Raje must "own up responsibility" in the Lalit Modi controversy.
 
"It is a very clear indication from the senior-most leader of BJP that its ministers, when they are implicated, when there are allegations against them, should own up responsibility.
 
"The Prime Minister should come out with a clear explanation. Nothing is happening. It is in this context that he (Advani) has given this opinion. So, I think that Advaniji's opinion is the reflection of thinking in general of the people," said senior Congress leader PC Chacko.
 
In a veiled message to the Narendra Modi government in the wake of the row involving Swaraj and Raje, the BJP patriarch had yesterday said there is a need to maintain probity in public life and recalled how he had resigned soon after his name cropped up in the Hawala scam.
 
"The very mention of Advaniji's resignation now means what? It is a hint that he wants that these two people should own moral responsibility," added Chacko.
 
External Affairs Ministry Refuses To Answer Questions
Responding to an RTI plea containing seven questions, the External Affairs Ministry said, while a part of the queries did not come under the purview of the transparency law, regarding others it pleaded lack of information.
 
The questions included one about who had taken a decision not appeal in the Supreme Court the Delhi High Court's decision restoring Modi's passport.
 
"Kindly note that the office of External Affairs Minister (EAM) has informed that the questions in Serial 1 to 3 of your RTI does not seem to fall under the purview of the RTI act, 2005. As regards to queries Sl No 4 to 7, no information is available with EAM's office," the MEA said in its reply dated June 26 to Rayo, the applicant from Haryana.
 
The MEA, however, said the application has been "transferred" to its Consular, Passport and Visa Division as well as to the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Home.
 
The MEA's action drew stinging criticism from the opposition, with Congress calling it against the "spirit" of RTI ACT and CPI(M) alleging the transparency law has been "sabotaged" by the Modi government.
 
"This is against the spirit of the RTI ACT," said senior Congress leader P C Chacko.
 
"In fact, any private information need not be disclosed but here is a case which is affecting even the security of the country also and person who is fugitive, who is an absconder, against whom there is an inquiry going on... and when information is sought on that, it simply cannot be treated as a private matter," Chacko said. 
 
CPI(M)'s Brinda Karat said it was "more than just stonewalling".
 
"It's a shame that the RTI Act which provides a framework for some amount of transparency in governance has been completely diluted and sabotaged by the Modi government.
 
"So the government which came under claim of transparency and good governance is sabotaging the initiatives. Now they say they do not have the information....makes a mockery of the act itself and the law for transparency," she said.
 
BJP, however, made a cautious defence of the MEA move with party spokesman Nalin Kohli saying,"There is a process about RTI and there are certain rules about it and these rules are followed. If it is about specifics, the concerned officers would be the right place to ask." 
 
Reacting to the MEA blocking RTI reply, AAP leader Ashish Khetan said "What we are seeing today is a government and politics without accountability and zero transparency in the era of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi."
 
The first three questions included why Swaraj did not advise Modi to apply for a temporary travel document to the Indian High Commission in London instead if she intended to help him on humanitarian grounds to travel to Portugal. It also asked why the External Affairs Minister did not insist on Modi?s return to India as a condition for issuing a temporary Indian travel document.
 
The questions from Sl no 4 to 7 included a query on whether the government has lodged any objections to UK for granting residency permit to Modi, who has refused to appear before the Enforcement Directorate, and what steps the government has taken since the issuance of fresh passport to the former IPL boss to enforce the ED summons.
 
It also included a query on who took the decision not to file an appeal in the Supreme Court against Delhi High Court?s ruling setting aside cancellation of Modi's passport. It asked whether the ED, at whose instance the passport was cancelled, was consulted on the issue.
 
The RTI application also asked about government?s response to Modi's "wild charge that his life will be in danger if he returned to India."