NEW DELHI: Congress today 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?"
Javadekar said it is "ridiculous" that Congress has taken up the issue of the journalists' visit to Pakistan and his meeting with Saeed.
"Those taking such soft approach towards Saeed and had "surrendered" before terrorism now want to teach us lessons on patriotism. This is not done," he said while also reminding the Congress of its inaction when the separatists went to Rawalpindi from PoK without a visa.
"Why they were silent when Yasin Malik fasted with Hafiz Saeed. Congress must answer. They have no moral right to ask any question," he said.
On Congress raising the issue of files, Javadekar said the list of files to be destroyed in each ministry was prepared by the UPA.
"It is a routine continuous administrative reforms process in which non essential files after a certain periodicity are destroyed," he said.
Referring to former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde's statements, he said, "It is not our fault. Congress should not forget its minister was saying Hafiz Sahib and Osama ji."
Javadekar said now the Congress is "exposed" in Rajya Sabha even during the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill when Congress members opposed Jairam Ramesh.