Breaking her silence on the row over her links to Lalit Modi, Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje today admitted through aides that she did sign a secret testimony for the former IPL chief but maintained “it was not addressed to any court of law, neither is it an affidavit”.
She is scheduled to leave for New Delhi early Saturday to attend a meeting of the Niti Aayog. She is likely to meet top BJP leaders who have already held separate meetings to devise a strategy on ending the controversy, fuelled by allegations of wrongdoing.
Rajasthan BJP president Ashok Parnami told reporters: “The CM had on the first day admitted that she knew Lalit Modi’s family and made no bones about it. She had, however, said that she did not know which papers were being talked about by the media. She has not gone back on her words.”
“The first draft of the document has been in circulation and, as the media itself acknowledged, Raje did not depose before any court of law. The statement was not addressed to any court, it is not an affidavit and nor has she deposed before any court. Her signature is only on the last page but not on any other page. No final order was pronounced in Lalit Modi’s favour on the basis of this document. Nor had Modi been declared a fugitive then,” he said.
State Health Minister and government spokesperson Rajendra Singh Rathore said: “It is an attempt to create a storm in a teacup. The document has not benefited Lalit Modi or his family. In view of the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 UK, it is a draft of deposition that is meaningless. If having ties with Lalit Modi is an issue, then he has himself said that he met Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra in London, that too at a time the UPA was in power. It must be noted that not one notice was then issued against Modi by the UK but 15 by the UPA government.”
On the secrecy clause, Rathore said: “At the time of signing this document, Raje was being subjected to a witch-hunt by the UPA government and she had written it thinking that if it was leaked in the media, it would have brought a bad name to the country. India was then embroiled in the 2G and coal allocation controversies and political vendetta was at its height.” “Raje is the accepted leader of the state and will continue to be so,” he underlined.
In New Delhi, Congress leader C P Joshi alleged a quid pro quo in the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Rajasthan government and Lisbon-based Champalimaud Foundation for setting up a cancer institute in the state.
To back his charge, Joshi said according to the MoU, the Rajasthan government will “provide the land for the centre and undertake its construction. Besides, it will provide service providers like doctors, nursing staff and physicists and funds for procurement of equipment and will procure them.”
“The Champalimaud Foundation will only provide technical guidance and support. The Rajasthan government will use people’s money to acquire land, construct the centre and provide the equipment.. Even service providers will be identified in consultation with the foundation… It is expected from the government that it will follow general financial rules, call tender to shortlist global cancer hospitals… follow a transparent method to develop such a centre,” he said.
Maintaining that the state government should have owned the centre and managed the facility, Joshi alleged it was a case of public money being “sloshed for crony gratification” in a “quid pro quo”. “The centre will not be under the purview of the state government. It will not scrutinised by the CAG,” he said.
Responding to the allegations, Rathore said: “On October 2, 2014, the MoU was signed after a team led by Rajasthan University for Health Sciences vice chancellor did a detailed study on cancer institutes including Sloan Kettering in the United States where Sonia Gandhi often visits, Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai and Lisbon-based Champalimaud Foundation. It was unanimously decided that the Portugal centre was renowned for its good work and would be the best choice.”
“The Centre had allocated Rs 120 crore to Rajasthan to set up a cancer institute. Champalimaud Foundation did not stand to gain a single rupee from the MoU. We did it only for skill and technology upgradation so that better facilities could reach the people of the state,” he said.
In New Delhi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma rubbished Congress demands for Raje’s resignation. “BJP fully supports Vasundhara Raje, our tallest leader in Rajasthan. Congress is targeting our popular leaders and we stand by her.”
There was a hardening of stance with leaders emphasising that while an affidavit may exist, Raje never appeared in any UK court as is the legal requirement there.“Did she go and depose there (in the UK)? No. There was no action that finally took place of her behalf,” BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli said, adding that the affidavit had been made in her personal capacity.