Last year, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was in the eye of a storm following reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ticked off his son for seeking political favours.

During the last budget session of Parliament, Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari had to fend off persistent opposition demands for his resignation after his family-owned company, the Nagpur-based Purti Group, was faulted by the Comptroller and Auditor General for violating the conditions for interest subsidy it had been extended by the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency.

On Sunday, it was the turn of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to court controversy.

She was in the firing line after it emerged that she helped former Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi obtain travel documents last July even though he is wanted by the Enforcement Directorate and is being investigated by the income tax authorities for financial impropriety. At the time, his passport had been impounded.

Despite day-long demands from the opposition that she should step down, the Bharatiya Janata Party was quick to field its president, Amit Shah, to defend the beleaguered minister.  "There were no moral grounds involved,” Shah said. “The help was based on humanitarian grounds."

The  Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, also rushed to her aid, stating that the minister was  clearly guided by her "humane nature and nationalistic spirit”.

Riding out the storm

The Prime Minister has decided to ride out the storm as he obviously does not want to sacrifice a minister under opposition pressure. Moreover, it also helps him exercise greater control over ministers who are vulnerable.

Swaraj defended herself in a series of tweets.





However, Swaraj  failed to respond  to  charges that  her daughter Bansuri Swaraj had represented Lalit Modi in the Delhi High Court  when the controversial cricket administrator challenged the revocation of his passport last year.

Although the BJP has formally defended the three ministers, it sees that all these controversies have their genesis in the party’s simmering factional battles. Both Rajnath Singh and Gadkari were aspirants for the prime minister’s post in the run-up the the 2014 Lok Sabha elections but were beaten to it by Narendra Modi.

The case against Swaraj has hit the headlines at a time when the minister was coming in for high praise for her mature handling of  the foreign office. Swaraj was particularly singled out for the manner in which she steered the Indo-Bangla land boundary agreement through Parliament in May.

Old rivals

It is also an acknowledged fact that Sushma Swaraj and Finance Minister Arun Jaitely are not exactly on the best of terms. Although both were known to be  protégés of  veteran BJP leader LK Advani, the finance minister was quick to throw in his lot with Narendra Modi while Swaraj held out till the end. While she was accommodated in a key ministry when the Modi government came to power, her loyalties were always suspect, the chief reason she maintained a low-profile over the past year. It was only recently that she became more visible and vocal despite the fact that the country’s foreign policy has been driven by Modi and the Prime Minister’s Office.

While the rivalry between Swaraj and Jaitley are being mentioned privately in connection with the latest revelations, there is another angle to this controversy.  During his stint as a member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Arun Jaitley was once close to the Lalit Modi. However, the two fell out after charges of financial impropriety surfaced against Modi.

In fact, it was speculated that the look-out order issued against Lalit Modi in 2010 by the previous United Progressive Alliance government was the result of Jaitley’s friendship with former finance minister P Chidambaram. It is also no coincidence that the present IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla is known to be close to Jaitley, who actually got him this job after he lost the BCCI elections. Shukla is currently holidaying in London.

It is, therefore, not surprising that though the RSS, Amit Shah, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and  BJP spokespersons have come out in Swaraj’s defence,  there has been no word from Jaitely or his ministry,  which is pursuing cases against Lalit Modi.