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PM Narendra Modi, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Gujarat elections and Pakistan: Everything you need to know

What really happened at a dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar? Were the Gujarat elections discussed? What did PM Modi say at his election rally? Everything you need to know.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 11, 2017 6:59:04 pm
Suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Express Archive)

Addressing a rally in Gujarat on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi targeted the Congress for a series of events amidst the Gujarat elections, which, he said, creates “suspicion” and causes “worry” for the country’s sovereignty.

Referring to a tweet posted by a former Pakistani army officer which called for Ahmed Patel, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, to be named chief ministerial candidate for the Gujarat polls, Modi claimed the neighbouring country was showing “undue” interest in the election.

Secondly, he attributed a “secret meeting” hosted by recently suspended Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar and attended by a Pakistani official to Aiyar’s “neech (lowly)” remark a day later.

What exactly did Modi say?

Speaking in Banaskantha district, Modi said in Gujarati: “Pakistan former army director general Arshad Rafiq said that in Gujarat, Ahmed Patel should be made the chief minister. Why is Pakistan’s senior retired army officer exercising his brain in the Gujarat election?”

On the dinner meeting at Aiyar’s house, the PM said, “A Pakistan delegation meets at Mani Shankar’s house and the next day he disrespects Gujarat’s society, its pachat (backward) society, its poor and Modi. Don’t all these things raise questions and concern?”

Also Read | Pained at PM Modi’s spreading of falsehood to score political points: Manmohan Singh

He added, “…(Aiyar) held a meeting for three hours, and then the next day, Mani Shankar calls Modi ‘neech’. This is a serious and sensitive issue. Also, what is the reason for such a secret meeting amidst Gujarat elections?”

Aiyar was recently suspended from the Congress for his “neech kisam ka aadmi” on December 7. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in a rally on Sunday, had said he respects the prime minister’s post and would defeat him with love.

When did Aiyar invite Pakistani diplomats?

Nearly a month ago, Aiyar had sent out invitations to attend a dinner at his residence in New Delhi, scheduled on December 6. The former Congress leader has been involved in track-II processes between the two countries. Having served as consul general in Karachi, he has been facilitating talks between the countries as well.

Who attended the dinner meeting?

The invitee list included a former Indian Army chief, a former foreign secretary and diplomats who had served in the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, The Indian Express has reported citing sources. The former prime minister and vice-president of the country were called as well.

The meeting was held during Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s visit to India. Kasuri was foreign affairs minister during Pervez Musharraf’s tenure and played a key role in drafting the initiatives on Kashmir at the time.

The invitees included: former Indian 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 — Bajpai, Raghavan and Sabharwal had served as Indian High Commissioners to Pakistan — former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former vice-president Hamid Ansari.

What was discussed at the meeting?

According to those who attended, only India-Pakistan relations were discussed, and there was “nothing to do with domestic policies.” General Kapoor, the only one to go on record, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express, “Yes, I was part of the meeting and we discussed nothing more than India-Pakistan relations,” He was the 23rd Chief of Army Staff and retired in March 2010.

Others who were contacted by The Indian Express said it was a get-together of “those who have known Kasuri or served in Pakistan as diplomats” and that “it had nothing to do with domestic politics.”

Aiyar declined to comment.

Has the Congress reacted?

Former prime minister and Congress leader, Dr Manmohan Singh expressed his dismay over Modi’s comments. In a statement released in media, Singh said, “I reject the innuendos and falsehoods as I did not discuss Gujarat elections with anyone else at the dinner hosted by Mani Shankar Aiyar as alleged by Modi.  Nor was the Gujarat issue raised by anyone else present at the dinner. The discussion was confined to India-Pakistan relations. Names of the distinguished Indian public servants and journalists present at the dinner are enclosed to this statement. None of them could be accused of indulging in any anti-national activities,” Singh said, adding that PM Modi should apologise to the nation for his ‘ill thought transgression to restore the dignity of the office he occupies’.”

Also Read | ‘PM Modi must apologise to nation to restore dignity of his office’

Party chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala targeted the BJP on its “Pakistan prem (love for Pakistan) and said, “By making highly irresponsible and false statements, Modi has brought down the dignity of the office of prime minister.”

“It is the Modi government that invited Pakistani ISI to inspect the Pathankot Air Base that was attacked by Pakistan-based terrorists,” he said, adding that Modi had travelled to Lahore to attend the wedding of former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif’s daughter.

Surjewala also raised the arrest of Dhruv Saxena in connection with a SIM box fraud with a Pakistani trail in Madhya Pradesh. Saxena had claimed links with the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s Bhopal district IT Cell.

The party also spoke about top Jaish militants, who were exchanged for hostages by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government at the time of the Kandahar hijacking.

On Monday, Congress leader Anand Sharma called it “outrageous” that Modi said the party is conspiring with Pakistan for the Gujarat polls. He said, “PM has said Congress is conspiring with Pakistan for Gujarat elections. It’s outrageous. This is just an attempt to polarise ahead of second phase of voting. This also shows his desperation and that BJP’s loss is now guaranteed,” reported ANI.

Pakistan’s response

Pakistan on Monday responded to the “fabricated conspiracy”, saying India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate. Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal, on Twitter, said, “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.”

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad later condemned Pakistan’s statement. He said, “Completely abhor outside interference in India’s internal affairs. Pakistan’s promotion of terrorism in India is well known but Pakistan must stop giving us lessons. We are proud of our democracy. Condemn this unwarranted statement,” reported ANI.

(With inputs from agencies)

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