NEW DELHI: As the controversy over ‘journalist’ Ved Prakash Vaidik’s rather curious meeting with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed refused to die down, the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday made it known that the government had nothing to do with the meeting or Vaidik at any level.
It was neither a convert nor an overt operation. In fact, there is nothing to it other than someone trying to hog the limelight by conjuring up proximity to the government, a senior PMO official said.
Distancing itself from the controversial meeting that the Opposition picked on and sought clarification from the government, the latest demand came from former Union Minister Kamal Nath, the Prime Minister’s Office made it known that Vaidik was neither deputed nor had kept the government in the loop on his “freelance activities” across the border in Pakistan. “This is not even Track-II diplomacy. If the government needs to activate back channels, it will chose carefully from a pool of people with proven credentials with stature in foreign policy matters,” the senior official added.
It was also emphatically pointed out that when the government needs to fall back on Track-II diplomacy to forward its agenda or create an environment “it is usually not done in front of the TV cameras”. If the government needs to take recourse to alternative routes, it will be done in a structured manner not through freelancers. There’s no dearth of qualified people who can be engaged,” the official said.
But the fact that the PMO has not taken this unsavoury controversy, which broke out during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s absence, too kindly was quite evident. Short of questioning Vaidik’s credentials to represent the government, the PMO indicated that the entire matter will probed.
Union External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, has already told Parliament that the government or her ministry had no knowledge of Vaidik’s visits or meeting. That it was a pro-bono act. Also in the eye of a storm, Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar Wednesday sent a “report” on the Islamabad-based Regional Peace Institute conference for which Vaidik had originally gone to Pakistan, ostensibly to clarify his position vis-à-vis the controversial meeting. Aiyar’s report was sent to NSA Ajit Doval. The latter, however, away with Prime Minister Modi on the BRICS trip.
What seems to have riled the PMO most is the fact that Vaidik-Saeed row surfaced during the crucial Budget session, while the government’s main focus is to get the Demands-of-Grants passed.
The PMO sources pointed out how Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Principal Secretary to PM Nripendra Mishra, dropped out of the PM’s BRICS Summit team for the Budget proceedings, in the PM’s absence. Though not stated unequivocally, sources hinted that the government would like to be at an arm’s length from Baba Ramdev and similar supporters, who were trying to hog the limelight and set an agenda of their own, cashing in on the campaign time proximity.
Meanwhile, the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF), a think-tank rubbished reports linking it with Vaidik.