New Delhi: In his first comments on the latest crisis to hit his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at a weekly meeting of BJP lawmakers today.
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told NDTV that PM Modi said Mr Jaitley would come out "with flying colours" in the Delhi cricket body controversy much like BJP veteran LK Advani had emerged unscathed from Hawala charges in the 1990s.
"No one has any doubt about his honesty and integrity. The allegations against him are baseless," PM Modi said about Mr Jaitley, who has dragged leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, to court over their allegations against him of corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA), which he headed for 13 years.
PM Modi's remarks come six days after AAP first made the allegations and there has been much speculation on why the BJP's top leadership had not rushed to support Mr Jaitley, though other ministers have rallied around him.
On Monday evening BJP chief Amit Shah also broke his silence, defending Mr Jaitley and accusing the AAP government in Delhi of running a malicious campaign against the minister.
Mr Shah did not however comment on BJP lawmaker Kirti Azad all but naming the finance minister in his allegations of corruption in the DDCA. Mr Azad has also publicly challenged Mr Jaitley to sue him.
The leadership's silence till Monday evening had raised eyebrows, especially after Mr Azad defiantly held a press conference on Sunday despite being warned by Mr Shah against it.
Kirti Azad was not present at the meeting of BJP lawmakers that the PM addressed today, amid buzz that the party leadership is likely to take action against him after the winter session of Parliament ends tomorrow.
The BJP meet also discussed the commission of inquiry set up by the Delhi government to probe allegations of corruption in the DDCA. The BJP says the state government does not have the authority to investigate the cricket body.