New Delhi: Congress on Monday targeted the Prime Minister’s Office over the meeting of an Indian journalist with the Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan, alleging its “direct involvement” and asked the government to “come clean” on the issue.
Congress leaders raised in Parliament and outside the issue of Ved Pratap Vaidik meeting Saeed, saying the journalist was “very close to Sangh parivar” and rejected the government’s contention that it had nothing to do with the meeting.
“This is a very serious issue with regard to national security. The PMO is directly involved in it.
“Vaidik belonged to the same organisation Vivekananda International Foundation, whose three members Nripendra Misra, PK Mishra and Ajit Doval are working for the Modi government as Principal Secretary, Additional Principal Secretary in PMO and as National Security Advisor (NSA) respectively,” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said at the AICC briefing.
He added, “Now the fourth person, who also worked in the Foundation, Vaidik, whom we knew more as a columnist rather than a regular journalist, had met the most wanted terrorist in India, who is an accused in Mumbai terror strikes. A serious question arises. Did he go to meet Hafiz Saeed at the instruction of the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister and the government must come clean on it.”
Vaidik, considered close to Baba Ramdev, has rejected suggestions by Congress that he might have acted as the government’s envoy, saying he was “nobody’s envoy but my own”.
In Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said for India, Saeed was a terrorist and indeed involved in terrorism against India.
Government has nothing to do with “directly, indirectly or even remotely” with any journalist meeting Saeed, he said, adding “government has not sanctioned permission to anyone for meeting him (Saeed).
Rejecting Jaitely’s remarks, the Congress spokesperson said that “merely making statements like this” won’t do.
“Jaitly has said that the government has nothing to do with it. What he is saying is wrong. PMO is involved in sending him (Vaidik)” to Pakistan,” Ahmed, said alleging that people from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) dominate the Foundation.
“This is not an issue involving Vaidik alone. The entire government is involved in it,” he said.
Former Union Minister and senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said that the government needs to answer whether it was “in the loop”.
“Such meetings cannot take place without the knowledge of the officials. Therefore a legitimate question arises, was the government of India in the loop? Has our foreign ministry received a report?”
Rejecting BJP’s allegation that it was raising the Hafiz Saeed issue due to desperation over not having the numbers to get the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) post in Lok Sabha, Ahmed hit back asking if it meant that the government has already told the Speaker what decision to take in this matter.
“Does the government take this decision (on LoP)? Has the government decided and it has been communicated to the Speaker. There is a law, which says that party having the biggest number in the Opposition gets the LoP and Speaker decides it. If the government has communicated something to the Speaker after taking a decision, I have no idea,” the Congress spokesperson said.
I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is also a BJP spokesperson, earlier said, “The reality is that Congress knows what it is putting forth is not right. It is their desperation to hide their frustration due to the defeat. The Congress is desperate.
“Their real issue is LOP. When people of the country have rejected them to be in government and also not given them the numbers to get the LOP, how can the BJP help.”
Ahmed said there has been a certain arrangement of LoP having a role in the selection of CVC, CBI chief, NHRC Chairman and some other key posts.
“For a healthy Parliamentary democracy especially in these circumstances, the LoP’s role has become very important,” he said.