Describing journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik as a "Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh man", Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday questioned whether the Indian high commission in Islamabad had facilitated the meeting between him and Mumbai attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed.
"The question is did the Indian embassy facilitate the gentleman (Vaidik) or not. We are curious to find out if Indian embassy has facilitated this event.
"Did they helped this gentleman in any way? That's what we are curious about," the Congress vice president told mediapersons in New Delhi.
A row has erupted over the meeting of Vaidik, considered close to yoga guru Ramdev, with Saeed with the journalist rejecting suggestions made by Congress that he might have acted as government's envoy.
Vaidik had met the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, said to be the parent organisation of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba, in Lahore on July 2 while touring Pakistan along with a group of journalists and politicians invited by a peace research institute.
"Ya he is an RSS man. That's a known fact," Gandhi said to a question about Vaidik.
The Congress has targeted the Prime Minister's Office over the meeting alleging its "direct involvement" and asked the government to "come clean" on the issue.
Congress leaders had also on Monday raised in Parliament and outside the issue of 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.
"Vaidik belonged to the same organisation Vivekananda International Foundation, whose three members Nripendra Misra, P K Mishra and Ajit Doval are working for the Modi government as principal secretary, additional principal secretary in the PMO and National Security Advisor respectively," party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed had said at the All India Congress Committee meeting.
‘Congress’s diversionary tactics’
Meanwhile, calling it a diversionary tactics of the Congress, the government on Tuesday distanced itself from the meeting between Vaidik and Saeed, saying the journalist was "neither authorised nor representing the government or BJP".
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu alleged that Congress was trying to "divert" the attention of the people and the entire episode was part of the "disinformation campaign against this government and the Bharatiya Janata Party".
"I feel that the Congress party is trying to make an issue of one of the journalists meeting with Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the terrorist attack. That's a private affair.
"The government has nothing to do. He has been neither authorised nor representing the government or the party. We have nothing to do with that meeting. It's a free country, people are going to different places," Naidu told reporters in New Delhi.
He said that the people who were now making a "hue and cry" over this issue had kept silent when Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik had met the same Saeed.
"Yasin Malik on an earlier occasion also met Hafiz Saeed. At that time all these people were keeping quite. Now they are trying to make a hue and cry and trying to link it with the government.
"(It is being said) Vaidik is an RSS man....Mani Shankar Aiyer is a Congressman if they could understand. Man is a man whatever organisation you belong to. How is that RSS has come into the picture, I do not understand," Naidu said.
Turmoil in Parliament
The turmoil over the meeting of a journalist with terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed stalled the Parliament on Tuesday for the second consecutive day, with the government stating it has nothing to do with it and terming it as "diplomatic misadventure of a private individual".
Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha saw disruptions as soon as the two Houses met for the day, with opposition Congress seeking suspension of Question Hour to get government's response over the "serious" matter.
Both Houses were again disrupted during the Zero Hour with the Congress members expressing concern over the meeting and entering the Well raising slogans.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told Rajya Sabha that the government has nothing to do with either the visit or the meeting between Ved Pratap Vaidik and Saeed. "It is a diplomatic misadventure of a private individual," he said.
In Lok Sabha, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said government has nothing to do with a journalist meeting India's one of the most wanted terrorists Hafiz Saeed in Pakistan recently.
"Allegation that the government facilitated the journalist's meeting with Hafiz Saeed is false and baseless," Swaraj said.
Image: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi