Times Now is known to be a bit belligerent, but when it flashed "#LalitGate, fire one or both?" on screen for much of the last week, it wasn't being bombastic. At the time it seemed like a good possibility that both External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje would have to step down, after both were found to have allegedly provided favours to Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi, accused of many illegalities, including money laundering.

Because of her prominence, Swaraj – accused of assisting Modi with British travel documents though his passport at the time remained revoked by India – was always on steadier ground. Still for a while it seemed as if the government might consider asking her to leave for propriety's sake anyway.

Raje, meanwhile, was never going to have an easy time. She has enough enemies in the Bharatiya Janata Party itself, and the allegations against her go beyond just favours. Instead, the chief minister is accused of hiding the support she provided to Modi in helping him with his immigration status, while her son was loaned crores of rupees by the IPL founder in a transaction that is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.

Who else?

Yet the BJP has rallied behind both of them, with top leaders supporting Swaraj from the get-go, and now union minister and former BJP President Nitin Gadkari signalling the same backing would be extended to Raje. There are lots of reasons the Modi government may have decided to do this, not least the danger of admitting any impropriety for a government that has promised to be corruption-free.

But one simple reason comes to mind, particularly for Raje: if not her then whom?

Party heads have to consider a complicated matrix of factors, from political importance to efficiency to expertise to visibility, when they pick politicians for particular posts. The final choice is often the result of complex calculations that flow out of a particular event, like an election, which allows for a pecking order to be established. Having to remove and replace a politician, even as a result of impropriety (and sometimes directly because of it) upsets that careful arrangement.

That might not seem like a good reason to retain a senior leader accused of corruption, but the Indian media and, by extension, the public in general have very short attention spans, so weathering a storm in the media seems to make more sense than ruffling feathers.

Raje Rajya

This is what appears to have happened in Raje's case in particular. At first it seemed as if the government was ready to drop the Rajasthan chief minister, who has never been a comfortable team player. Raje hitched herself to the Modi wagon in 2013, having realised what the future of the party looked like, but she has never been entirely comfortable with the Modi-Amit Shah combine at the top of the BJP or with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Nevertheless on Monday, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, known to be close to the RSS, defended her in unequivocal terms. "Vasundhara-ji is completely right legally, logically and ethically. There is no fault of hers anywhere," Gadkari said. "I assured her that the central government and the BJP stand strongly with her."

Murmurs attribute this move to the RSS, which effectively told the government that the Rajasthan BJP unit without Raje would be much more unstable than one with her at the helm. Although she has proven to be a canny operator who can win elections, she is rarely good at capturing hearts and minds, including in her own team. Which means there is no natural successor, and instead, the BJP will find a whole line-up of leaders clamouring for the chief ministerial post, some of whom have openly challenged Raje in the past, potentially endangering the careful caste coalition the party has built in the state.

New Equations

Unlike in Sushma Swaraj's case, where there is a worry about whether the BJP even has enough senior leaders who can be given charge of top ministries, there is no dearth of options to replace Raje with. But that embarrassment of riches itself becomes a problem, because having to pick from among all those choices is a problem in itself, and some of them were being blatant about it.

When asked by the Indian Express about Raje's situation, very few from the party offered to come on record and in defence of the chief minister, with most instead saying they would rather wait till "new equations" develop and then react. This doesn't mean Raje is safe, of course, because the opposition will continue to beat this drum well into the Monsoon session unless something else comes up. But it does mean that Raje has a bit of a buffer before she is fired, at least until the party decides how it will deal with the fallout of having got rid of her.