Once her targets, now her shield: Irony isn’t lost as PM, Shah defend Sushma

Brand-new DELHI: As the opposition demanded Sushma Swaraj’s resignation, the irony of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah coordinating her defence was not lost on BJP insiders, considering that she had targeted both not long ago.

It was Shah who coordinated with Modi to defend Swaraj after she took them into confidence on Friday. Sources said the BJP chief talked to home minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley before he stepped out in the open to defend the foreign minister, thus scotching the possibility that she could be asked to quit. Rajnath’s statement in support of his beleaguered colleague was part of the script which was worked out by the PM and the BJP chief.

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The camaraderie attracted the attention of numerous because of the history of Swaraj’s strained equations with Modi and Shah. The foreign minister had argued for Shah to be suspended from the party after CBI arrested him for alleged complicity in “fake encounters” — a charge which the court recently dismissed as a political frame-up. Shah survived because of the solid backing from Modi and others who maintained that the former’s arrest was part of Congress’s political conspiracy.

Swaraj, who was leader of opposition in the last Lok Sabha and, in consonance with the tradition of the British Parliament, was seen as the “shadow” PM, also contested Modi’s eligibility to be BJP’s PM candidate. The foreign minister was among those who opposed Modi’s appointment as chairman of the party’s campaign committee and boldly gave a note of dissent when the parliamentary board overruled other opponents of the then Gujarat CM to declare him as the PM candidate.

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The irony was accentuated with the RSS too coming out in support of Swaraj despite the foreign minister not being too close to the Sangh brass.

In fact, the show of solidarity could not erase the history of distrust and rivalry with AAP’s Ashutosh suggesting that the row over Swaraj seeking to help Lalit Modi could be part of a larger plot to fix the PM’s opponents. RJD’s Manoj Jha articulated similar suspicions, saying Swaraj could be a victim of BJP’s internal feud and, therefore, should not be demonized.

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