New Delhi: Former finance minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said that the BJP has “lost the moral high ground” due to the way it has reacted to the recent story in The Wire on the business dealings of party president Amit Shah’s son, Jay Amitbhai Shah.
In an interview to NDTV on Wednesday, Sinha said the BJP ought not to have fielded senior ministers to defend Jay Shah, or have farmed out a top government lawyer, Tushar Mehta, to represent someone who is essentially a private businessman. “Looking at all this, therefore, perhaps the high moral ground that we had occupied all these months and years appears to have been lost somehow.”
He was answering questions about the controversy triggered by The Wire‘s story on Amit Shah’s son.
“I don’t want to comment on the merits of the story which has appeared in The Wire because that is a matter of enquiry and investigation, ” said Sinha, “but I would certainly like to say that the manner in which a Central minister jumped into the fray in defence of Jay Shah is not called for. He is a central minister. He is not a chartered accountant of the firm of Jay Shah. Similarly, another minister of the UP government jumped to his defence. These are avoidable and should not have happened.”
Sinha also questioned the way in which clearance was given for the additional solicitor general to represent Jay Shah.
Asked if the controversy had dented the image of the party and the prime minister, Sinha said, “I will say that an episode takes place, your reaction to that determines whether you are still occupying the high moral ground or you have quit that high moral ground. From the way we have responded – the party and government – it appears we have lost the high moral ground.”
Sinha also described the defamation cases Jay Amit Shah is filing against The Wire with the backing of the government as an attempt to “suppress the voice of the media.”
“Media is a very important, integral part of democracy, that is why it is regarded as the fourth estate, the fourth pillar of democracy. To try and suppress the voice of the media either directly or though any other means, including for instance these defamation cases running up to to Rs 100 crore was also avoidable,” he said.
Following The Wire‘s investigative report on the dramatic increase in revenue of a company owned by Jay Shah in the year following the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jay Shah has filed a criminal defamation suit in an Ahmedabad court. He also announced his intention of suing The Wire for Rs 100 crore.
The Wire report also drew attention to the loans given to Jay Shah’s firms, including from a state-run firm that reports to the Ministry of New and Non-Renewable Energy (MNRE).
“The way the loan was given to Jay Shah by the [MNRE] and the way Piyush Goyal [who was in charge of that ministry at the time] defended him, it gives the impression that there’s something wrong,” NDTV quoted Sinha as saying.
“The government should order an inquiry because too many government departments are involved,” Sinha said, backing opposition demands for a probe into the BJP president’s son’s business affairs.
Last month, Sinha, in an article for the Indian Express on September 27, tore into the Modi government’s handling of the economy, warning of more turbulence and the possibility of a hard landing.
In a subsequent interview to The Wire, Sinha had also attacked the Modi government’s failure to address the Kashmir issue, and said that India has already lost the people of the Valley emotionally.