Even as former IPL chairman Lalit Modi dragged the eldest and the youngest leaders from the Gandhi family -- Sonia Gandhi and Varun Gandhi respectively -- into the ongoing British visa controversy, the Congress on Wednesday stepped up attack on the central government after it emerged that the tainted ex-cricket administrator had offered External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's husband a position on the board of one of his family-run firms.
The latest revelation gave the opposition party new ammunition to target Swaraj and the NDA government as it raised questions of conflict of interest and renewed its demand for the minister's resignation. Sushma's husband Swaraj Kaushal was reportedly offered the position of director to alternate for Lalit Modi on the board of Indofil Industries, an integrated chemical company headed by his industrialist father, KK Modi.
According to reports, the offer was made to Kaushal in April this year, several months after Sushma Swaraj helped Lalit Modi, who is being probed by the Enforcement Directorate(ED) for alleged money laundering, get urgent travel documents in the UK to travel to Portugal in connection with the treatment of his wife suffering from cancer.
The Modis, however, later reportedly withdrew the offer before it could be considered by the company board after the senior lawyer, Swaraj Kaushal, said no.
"I am a lawyer for Lalit Modi for over 20 years... I was offered to be alternate director on Indofil board. I did not give my consent. The request was withdrawn," ANI quoted Swaraj Kaushal as saying.
Kaushal's statement was backed by veteran industrialist KK Modi, the chairman-cum-managing-director of Indofil.
"Before the board could consider Lalit Modi's proposal, the matter was withdrawn. So it was never discussed," KK Modi told ANI.
"He did write a letter to inform, so obviously I was informed. But it was withdrawn so committee did not consider... I never consulted Mr Kaushal about this so you should ask Mr Kaushal whether he knew about the letter... No director can be appointed without following the rules and regulations which are laid out by law," ANI quoted Modi as saying.
The clarifications issued by Kaushal and KK Modi, however, were not enough to silence the Congress, which deployed a battery of spokespersons to train its guns once again on Sushma Swaraj.
Congress leaders Abhishek Manu Singhvi, PC Chacko, Randeep Surjewala and Tom Vadakkan appeared one by one before the media demanding Sushma's resignation as they once again questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "deafening silence" over the issue.
BJP leader Nalin Kohli, however, said that the Congress "has run out of ideas" and was "desperately clutching at straws".
This is the third time Congress has targeted Sushma on the issue. It all started with a British daily report highlighting Sushma's help to Lalit Modi, which the minister admitted was on "humanitarian" grounds. The party launched a fresh attack after Lalit Modi made public his good relations with Sushma as well as Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.
However, the intensity of Congress attack on Sushma weakened as Raje became its prime target over the latter's affidavit supporting Modi, who has been in the UK on self exile since 2010 to evade trial, and later over their "business relations".
Though the BJP has on and off backed the two of its strongest female leaders, the prime minister has never addressed the issue as demanded by the opposition.