On July 18, 2010, months before the coming together of Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal and the success of their “fast-track” Lokpal agitation, journalist Ved Pratap Vaidik sent out a mail on behalf of his organisation, Sabal Bharat, asking for people across the country to fast at their respective locations for self-cleansing and to press their demand for removal of caste data from the census.
A year later, the model had become the hallmark of the Anna-Kejriwal-Ramdev anti-corruption axis and Vaidik emerged a key presence in all of Ramdev’s events, from the Ramlila fast from which the guru fled in a salwar kameez to the elaborate do at Talkatora Stadium where then prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi made an appearance and promised to rework tax laws. An unabashed votary of Indian “culture and heritage”, Vaidik had a natural convergence of views with Ramdev. The two had known each other for many years before the Lokpal agitation but it was during 2011-12 that their proximity grew in proportion to Ramdev’s political dalliances.
Ever since Vaidik made the headlines with his meeting with Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, Ramdev’s propaganda machinery had been working overtime to emphasise that Vaidik is not a part of the Bharat Swabhiman organisation. Over the years, however, Vaidik has deftly positioned himself as a key adviser to the yoga guru.
Vaidik is a former opinion editor of Hindi daily Navbharat Times and of the Hindi arm of PTI, Bhasha, and his website describes him as “an eminent journalist, ideologue, political thinker social activist and orator”. But his years of journalism hardly gave him the kind of profile that he built for himself later. On Monday, amid speculation about whether he was an emissary of the government when he met Saeed, Vaidik retorted that if Rousseau as the father of the French Revolution and Karl Marx as the thinker who inspired the Russian revolution had not needed government backing, why would he.
Vaidik has never made any bones about his “close association” with Ramdev or his being privy to the ambitious guru’s political plans. When Ramdev parted ways with Kejriwal and the latter went on to launch the Aam Aadmi Party, Vaidik had hinted that it was to scuttle Ramdev’s plans to launch a party of his own.
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In August 2012, during one of Ramdev’s many anti-corruption fasts, Vaidik was by his own assertion the principal negotiator with the government. The talks failed and Ramdev finally came out clean about his saffron colours with his fast ending with a NDA show of strength. Deferential to Ramdev at all times, Vaidik is a PhD holder from Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Now, with the Hafeez Saeed meeting also rocking Parliament and the Congress demanding his arrest, Vaidik may find his explanation that as a journalist he is free to meet anybody inadequate. Three days after the controversial meeting, Vaidik wrote a piece in a Hindi daily titled “What does Pakistan want from India?” where he talked about his 20-day trip to the neighbouring country and the positive sentiment for Modi and an improvement in Indo-Pak ties. There was no mention of the Saeed meeting.
IN THE RAJYA SABHA
ARUN JAITLEY: Sir, as far as India is concerned and the Government of India is concerned, unquestionably Hafiz Saeed is a terrorist who has conspired against this country and indulged in actual acts of conspiracy. The Government of India has nothing to do — not directly, not indirectly, not even remotely — with any journalist in his individual capacity meeting him.
ANAND SHARMA: He is not just one journalist, he is a key member of many platforms, foundations, which are integral to the decision-making process… This person claims to be an intermediary and an emissary… Such meetings cannot take place unless and until it is in the knowledge… It has been facilitated. There would be officials involved. I would like to know whether there was information with the High Commission of India in Islamabad; whether the High Commission conveyed that to the Minister of External Affairs.
GHULAM NABI AZAD: Sir, the most surprising thing is that Mr Vaidik claims to be an intermediary and emissary. So, whose intermediary is he? That is the most important thing. The Leader of the House has said that they are against him. But if he claims that he is an intermediary and emissary, who has sent him on that mission?
AMBIKA SONI: This journalist who has gone there… Does he share a platform with someone who is part of the decision-making process?