NEW DELHI: Following an uproar and two adjournments over Ramdev aide and journalist Ved Prakash Vaidik’s meeting with 26/11 Mumbai carnage mastermind Hafiz Saeed, the Centre clarified in the Rajya Sabha on Monday that it had “nothing to do” with the journalist’s controversial Pakistan visit. Vaidik’s rather freewheeling meeting with Saeed in a “congested, but high-security area of Lahore” on July 2 against the backdrop of the US imposing a ban on the latter’s Jamat-ud-Dawa became a bit of a hot potato for the government.
And Vaidik defended the meeting as a “Samaritan act” in which he tried to transform a “dubious mind” for the larger good.
However, rejecting the insinuations that there was official backing to the meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told the House: “The government has nothing to do with any journalist’s activity in his individual capacity, directly or indirectly.”
The meeting, the minister added, was never sanctioned by the government. Saeed, he asserted, “is a terrorist and indeed involved in terror acts against India”.
No sooner had the Upper House met, than Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma raised the issue, seeking an explanation from the Centre. And BSP chief Mayawati demanded an investigation on the meeting. Thereafter, Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Ambika Soni and Sharma raised the decibel and even asked for Vaidik’s arrest while demanding to know whether the Centre was “in the loop”. A tweet by Digvijay read: “Did he go as an Envoy of NDA Government or as personal envoy of the PM?”
On his part, Vaidik said he was “no one’s envoy. I have never been a special envoy for any PM, I am my own envoy.”
He claimed that Saeed had told him that he had no problem with Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting Pakistan and that he would like to visit India to address a large gathering.
A BJP source said Vaidik was “a bit of a name-dropper who always tries to warm up to politicians cutting across party lines.