Jaipur: The friendship between former IPL boss Lalit Modi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje may have dimmed but there was a time when people in Rajasthan used to talk about the closeness between the two.
Lalit Modi in his interview to a TV channel has acknowledged the fact of his long friendship with Raje. "My relationship with Vasundhara Raje goes back 30 years. She is a close friend of the family and my wife," Modi told India Today TV this week.
Raje, in a statement issued recently, has accepted the fact that she knows the family of the former India Premier League commissioner who is charged with financial impropriety and money laundering.
People of Rajasthan came to know about Modi when he became Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) president in 2005, when the Raje-led BJP government was in power in the state. And after that there was no looking back for Modi, who eventually became the first IPL chairman.
After Raje became chief minister in 2003, and remained in the post till 2008, Modi was accused of running a parallel government. He was known to have booked a suite for himself in a five-star hotel where he would come and stay. Congress leaders accuse him of even interfering in running of the government at that time.
"At times the officers met him in his (hotel) suite with files, but Raje never stopped them even though she knew about it," Ashok Gehlot, former chief minister of Rajasthan, had alleged in 2010 while addressing a press conference when he was the chief minister.
Gehlot of the Congress in a statement issued recently said, "I have been constantly raising the corruption nexus between Vasundhara Raje and Lalit Modi since 2003-04."
The relationship was so close between the two that Raje, who according to Modi had accompanied his wife to Portugal for her cancer treatment in 2012 and 2013, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the same cancer institute in 2014 to set up a modern cancer institute in Jaipur.
As per a government of Rajasthan press release, the Raje-led BJP government entered into a memorandum of understanding on October 2, 2014 with the Champalimaud Foundation of Portugal where Lalit Modi's wife was treated. The MOU was signed in the presence of Raje where she also spoke and said that cancer patients will get better treatment and the centre will prove to be a boon for people who cannot afford the high cost of cancer treatment.
According to an official statement issued on that day, the state government allotted 34,400 sq metre land in the Rajasthan Health Science University premise at Pratap Nagar, Jaipur for this institute. As per the MOU, the Champalimaud Foundation will extend technical support in designing the infrastructure of the centre. It will also provide technical support in finalizing specifications and selection of equipment for diagnosis, treatment and research.
The close friendship between the two, however, turned sour. Though no one is sure of the reason but one of the reasons was reportedly also the ticket distribution in the 2013 assembly elections.
The name of Raje cropped up on Tuesday in connection with the Lalit Modi affair over allegations that she testified in favour of the former IPL chief’s British immigration application in 2011.
The opposition Congress has demanded Raje’s resignation for helping Modi, who is charged by the Enforcement Directorate with financial impropriety and money laundering in connection with the money-spinning IPL cricket tourney.
The revelations about Raje came in the aftermath of the controversy over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj helping Modi, who lives in London since 2010, with travel documents. Sushma has admitted she helped Modi travel to Portugal last July for treatment of his cancer-stricken wife on "humanitarian grounds".
(Anil Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)