Lalit Modi row: RSS asks Raje to step down as Rajasthan CM

New Delhi: The embattled Rajasthan chief minister accepted on Thursday that she supported former IPL czar Lalit Modi’s immigration claim in the UK in a signed affidavit. And now, the BJP’s ideological mentor RSS says she must face the axe for becoming the proverbial chink in the Modi government’s armour.

The majority view within the RSS is that Vasundhara Raje must step down, Sangh seniors are debating the date so as to cause least damage.
The majority view within the RSS is that Vasundhara Raje must step down, Sangh seniors are debating the date so as to cause least damage.
Accordingly, time may have finally run out for Vasundhara Raje.

While the RSS officially refused to give a reaction, highly-placed sources in the Sangh said Raje could soon be shown the door.

Om Prakash Mathur, who became BJP vice-president from national general secretary recently, has emerged as a clear choice to replace Raje in Rajasthan.

While the majority view within the RSS is that Raje must step down, Sangh seniors are debating the date so as to cause least damage.

“We have so far believed in maintaining a policy of zero tolerance against corruption and it must be upheld. Allegations against several BJP leaders have surfaced in the recent past, but we expect things within the BJP to be put in order in the next seven to ten days. Vasundhara Raje should step down. The situation is being made to look worse than it is by the media. These issues will be resolved soon,” a senior RSS functionary told Mail Today.

The Rajasthan CM had earlier denied the allegation when Lalit Modi had spilled the beans in a television interview with India Today.

While the party seems to be sharply divided over the fate of Raje and Minister for Foreign Affairs Sushma Swaraj, both embroiled in the Lalit Modi controversy, the RSS is miffed at the loss of public face and a resurgence of the Opposition that has gone all guns blazing to corner the Narendra Modi government.

The RSS also seems to be strongly backing Swaraj and HRD minister Smriti Irani, the latter under Opposition fire after a Delhi court admitted a complaint regarding allegations of furnishing wrong information in poll affidavits filed with the Election Commission.

Sources said Swaraj and Irani had not committed any act tantamount to corruption according to the RSS. But, Raje clearly has lost the Sangh’s trust.

Sources said the BJP was waiting for the “dust to settle down” as it did not want to be seen buckling under Opposition or media pressure before taking any punitive action. They said Raje still enjoyed considerable, though eroding, clout in the state as well as the party.

“Raje distributed a number of MP and MLA tickets during last elections and got most of them elected too. Therefore, she enjoys good support in the party. But, she is also becoming increasingly unpopular in the state,” said an RSS functionary.

He added Raje was not on good terms with Rajput MPs and the undue power delegated to her principal secretary had also caused consternation in the party.

“The BJP needs to undergo cleansing before the Bihar elections. Due to compulsions of electoral politics, a number of changes can be expected in the run up to Bihar polls,” said another RSS source. A senior BJP functionary, on condition of anonymity, said: “Our Prime Minister was elected by the people for being decisive and now he will have to take some tough decisions to uphold that image.”

Raje’s relationship with former IPL boss Lalit Modi has landed her in trouble.

But the background that explains why Lalit dragged Raje into the situation is interesting. On Tuesday, a note purportedly carrying Raje’s signature surfaced.

“I make this statement in support of any immigration application that Lalit Modi makes, but do so on strict condition that my assistance will not become known to the India authorities,” said the document dated August 18, 2011, almost a year after allegations of corruption came to the fore against Lalit over the multi-billion dollar IPL he fathered.

Raje, however, told a news channel in Jaipur: “I know Modi’s family, but I don’t know what this document they are talking about.”

Raje seems to be paying for acting “arbitrarily” when she reinstalled her “old family friend” Lalit as Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) chief in May 2014, disregarding his tirade against senior BJP leader and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the run-up to the 2013 elections.

Then chief minister Ashok Gehlot had alleged that Raje was behind Modi’s tweets against Jaitley, who had reportedly helped her become the BJP’s CM candidate.

When Raje ignored Lalit’s action and reinstalled him as RCA president in May 2014, she shocked many in the party. However, the decision had to be reversed.

In September 2014, RCA vice-president and the state BJP’s Minority Cell convenor Amin Pathan led a coup against Lalit and replaced him.

Observers opined that Raje executed it to control the damage Lalit’s reinstallation in RCA did to her.

Following his ouster, Lalit tweeted: “She @ Vasundhara has fired the first salvo of ensuring unfair voting- wait and watch this space for my next move. I too can fire missiles.”

The Raje-Lalit link is under the scanner also due to the alleged involvement of her three-time MP son Dushyant Singh in dubious money transactions with the ex- IPL chief.

Inputs with Mail Today