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Spare us, says Pak as Modi rips Cong for scheming with it in Gujarat polls

While there was indeed a dinner meeting, claims of Pakistan involvement in Gujarat elections seem a little far-fetched

BS Web Team  |  New Delhi 

Modi, Narendra Modi, Gujarat elections
Prime Minister Narendra Modi garlanded by BJP workers during a rally for the Gujarat elections in Gandhinagar. Photo: PTI

The fierce war of words between Prime Minister and Congress vice-president has taken the battle to another level altogether. On Sunday, PM Modi, while campaigning in the poll-bound state, stepped up his attack on the Congress and alleged Pakistan was interfering in the Assembly polls. His comments were in reference to a dinner held at Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's residence on December 6, which was attended by, among others, a former Indian Army chief, a former foreign secretary and diplomats who had served in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan. Pakistan angle in polls...? In a speech at a rally in Palanpur in Banaskantha district, the PM said: “The same Mani Shankar Aiyar who insulted held secret meetings with the Pakistan high commissioner. What was the reason? Why are people who previously held high posts in the military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan writing that we should make Ahmed Patel the chief minister (of Gujarat)?” The claim was also tweeted on his personal Twitter handle @narendramodi_in. The PM alleged that there were media reports on Saturday about a meeting at Aiyar’s house. “It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice-president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh,” Modi said. Is there any truth in Modi's claim While there was indeed a dinner meeting, claims of Pakistan involvement in elections seem a little far-fetched. According to a report published in The Indian Express, the meeting held at Mani Shankar Aiyer's Delhi residence was held during the visit of Pakistan’s former foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri to India. The following day, Kasuri was present at a talk hosted by Ananta Centre, a Delhi-based think-tank, titled, ‘The Current State of India-Pakistan Relations’. Sources told IE, those who attended Aiyar’s dinner and the discussions that preceded it included former Army chief Deepak Kapoor, former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, and former diplomats Salman Haidar, TCA Raghavan, Sharat Sabharwal, K Shankar Bajpai and Chinmaya Gharekhan, among others. Bajpai, Raghavan and Sabharwal had served as Indian High Commissioners to Pakistan.

Former PM Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari were also present at the dinner. Ex-Army Chief Deepak Kapoor admitted that he was a part of the meeting and "we discussed nothing more than India-Pakistan relations." Many of the attendees said that the meeting had nothing to do with 'domestic politics'. On Saturday, BJP leader, Subramanian Swamy tweeted, "Did Pak Ambassador meet MS Aiyar and three other Congi leaders at MSA residence five days ago on strategy? Palace coup in offing?."

“There were around 20 people and we talked about terrorism, Hafiz Saeed and Kashmir etc,” said one of the participants. The following day, at the event hosted by the Anant Centre, Aiyar said the challenging involved in nation-building was related to integrating the Muslim community into the rest of the country. He also said Muslims in India should not be equated with Pakistan. Aiyar had served as consul general in Karachi and has been an advocate of talks between the two countries. Pakistan responds to Modi's claims Pakistan on Monday responded to Modi's claims and said India's politicians should not drag the country into its domestic during campaigning for the assembly polls. "India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible," Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Faisal said on Twitter. Modi's statement Modi said that former director general of the Pakistan Army, Sardar Arshad Rafiq, had backed Ahmed Patel as the next chief minister of “(On one side) Pakistan Army’s former DG is interfering in Gujarat’s election, on the other side, Pakistan’s people are holding a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. And, after that meeting, people of Gujarat, backward communities, poor people and Modi were insulted. Don’t you think such events raise doubts?” Modi asked. Defence Ministry silent on Modi's allegations In Ahmedabad, BJP chief Amit Shah held a press conference to repeat the allegations. There was, however, no word from the Ministry of External Affairs about the PM’s allegations. Does Modi want to fight elections in Pakistan, asks Congress After accused the Congress of colluding with Pakistan, the Congress said the real colluder is the BJP, whose government gave Pakistani intelligence officials access to the country's top air force base in Pathankot after a terror attack there. The Congress also wondered "who really has Pakistan love" considering the PM dashed off to that country on an unplanned visit, on an event in then PM Nawaz Sharif's family. "Who has Pakistan love? Everyone knows who does... After terror attacks in Udhampur (August 2015) and Gurdaspur (July 2015), who went like the proverbial uninvited guest to Pakistan to attend the wedding of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif's granddaughter," asked Congress spokesman RS Surjewala, talking about the PM's shock Christmas 2015 trip to Lahore. Far from any Congress collusion, said Surjewala, it is the Modi government that needs to be questioned about its highly suspect actions vis-a-vis Pakistan. "If he wants to fight the elections in Pakistan, I want to ask who invited people from the (Pakistani intelligence agency) ISI to come to one of India's most important defence bases in Pathankot? At that time, (BJP president) Amit Shah said, 'we have faith in Pakistan investigating the role of attackers form their soil'. And, Modi ji, you are asking us questions about Pakistan?" thundered Surjewala.

First Published: Mon, December 11 2017. 14:30 IST