Defence drill minus Modi
New Delhi, July 19: BJP president Amit Shah today summoned Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan to seek "clarifications" and firm up a strategy for the Parliament session.
Shah made it clear to Sushma, the external affairs minister and a Lok Sabha MP, that Modi would not like to make a statement on behalf of any member of the quartet.
Sushma was told to defend herself against charges that she had helped disgraced cricket czar Lalit Modi obtain British travel papers in return for favours at a time India had revoked his passport.
Smriti, the human resource development minister and a Rajya Sabha MP, too was told to prepare her own defence in the House against the allegation of misrepresenting facts on her educational qualifications.
Vasundhara and Chouhan, the chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, respectively, are not MPs. So, they will be defended in the House by the BJP's "articulate and aggressive" ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal as well as new parliamentarian M.J. Akbar.
Each member of the summoned quartet met Shah separately at his Delhi residence, with Chouhan the last to arrive late in the evening.
"We will not drop our guard," a BJP official said today. "We are armed with enough facts to answer the Congress."
On the controversies involving Lalit, the BJP strategy is to counter-attack. Sources said that if push came to shove, party spokespersons would "throw" Lalit's tweet on Sonia Gandhi and her sister "back at the Congress".
On June 30 and July 1, Lalit had claimed in a flurry of tweets that BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi had met him in London a few years ago and offered to "settle everything" through his "aunt".
Lalit claimed the "aunt" was Sonia and that Varun had wanted him to meet Sonia's sister. Varun later told journalists that while he had met Lalit for "about 30 minutes", Sonia did not figure in the discussions.
But if the BJP drags Sonia into the controversy, party sources said, Varun cannot stay out of it. "His role will be watched," a source said.
After the daylong meetings, Shah briefed Modi and the rest of the core team. Sources said the strategy of taking the bull by the horns had been endorsed.
The BJP and the government are banking on an assessment that apart from the Left and the Bihar allies, the rest of the Opposition might not go the whole hog with the Congress.
One reason the government has put off introducing the land acquisition bill is that it doesn't want the Opposition to reunite.