Shashi Tharoor learnt it the hard way. And now it is External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who is having to defend her actions, however feeble her defence might be. And, interestingly, the common thread linking the two is former Indian Premier League (IPL ) cricket czar Lalit Modi.
On the face of it, Swaraj’s is a clear case of an indiscretion; a politician of her stature should have known better than to get involved in an avoidable controversy, that too involving a foreign government. For now, Swaraj’s colleagues in the party and government have rushed to her rescue and fended off Opposition’s demands for her resignation by dismissing all allegations as baseless. But with Parliament set to resume its sitting, the Treasury Benches will need to do more than hope that the scandal will soon blow over and it would be business as usual. The charge of impropriety against Sushma Swaraj is the Narendra Modi Government’s first real challenge yet and it remains to be seen how it handles it.
However, in the media frenzy that followed the news reports, one crucial question seems to have been overlooked: Who leaked the email correspondences between and among Lalit Modi; Sushma Swaraj’s husband Swaraj Kaushal; and Keith Vaz, a British lawmaker of Indian origin, among others? Be it the leaked audio transcripts a la Nira Radia tapes or the leaked emails now in circulation, they almost always hide more than they reveal. As they say, nothing is as it seems! If a media report is to be believed, then a London based Israeli company could have hacked into the emails of the dramatis personae in l’affaire Swaraj. The insinuation is that the scandal has to do with a feud between rival factions in the cash-rich Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
Yet, there are others who insist that the scandal is a manifestation of intra-party rivalries within the BJP and the government. Be that as it may, Swaraj has to do a lot of explaining to those who question why she bypassed established protocols to extend, what she calls, a “humanitarian” hand to Modi. At a recent press conference called to share the ministry of external affairs’ performance over the past year, Swaraj had this to say when asked for the secret of her success: “Stay away from the media and do your own work.” It seems, the more she shuns the media, the more she stays in the media and how.