The Gujarat elections are brewing to be more than a storm in a tea cup. The “Neech” remark made by Mani Shankar Aiyar has been the cannon fodder for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attack the Congress and he has turned this insult into political gold, as only he can.
The Prime Minister attacked the Congress Party by claiming that the leaders of the Congress Party had held a secret meeting with the Pakistani envoy and the Foriegn Minister. The Prime Minister also stated that the meeting was held at the residence of Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyer and was attended by former Pakistan high commissioner, former minister of external affairs of Pakistan, former vice president Hamid Ansari and former PM Manmohan Singh. The meeting ran for about 3 hours, he said.
“This is an issue of serious concern that when Pakistan has become a sensitive issue for the country then what was the reason to hold a secret meeting with Pakistan when the polls are being held in Gujarat. Former director general of Pakistan army Arshad Rafiq has insisted that Ahmed Patel should be made CM of Gujarat. Former army director general intervenes in Gujarat election. They held meeting with Pakistanis at Mani Shankar’s house and on the very next day of that meeting, Gujarat, backward community of Gujarat, Modi and poor people of Gujarat were insulted. Is it not an issue of concern for the country? Congress must answer what suspicious activities they are doing. They must answer the country,” added Modi.
The Congress spokesperson, Mr. Anand Sharma, has demanded proof of this meeting from Prime Minister Modi. He has further stated that if Prime Minister Modi is unable to provide proof of this meeting then he should apologise to the people of India for misleading them.
The Pakistan External Affairs Ministry officials have stated “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.”
Just as this was narrative was making news, it was also learnt that the top leader of a prominent Kashmiri separatist group, Muslim Conference, Mr. Abdul Ghani Bhat quietly met with Mr. Dineshwar Sharma, the central government’s interlocutor for Jammu and Kashmir. The Hurriyat leaders had earlier decided not to engage with the interlocutor.
This move seems to have split the Muslim Conference right in the centre. The split came less than two months after the NDA government appointed Dineshwar Sharma to hold talks with “all stakeholders” in Jammu and Kashmir including separatists.
Bhat, who led the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference for years, has been a vocal against violence and was seen to be amenable to dialogue with the government provided credible steps were taken to win the confidence of people.
Like other separatist groups, he was also one of the first to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise visit to Pakistan in December 2015, calling for initiatives “to move out from the frozen yesterdays to a peacefully productive tomorrow”.
It seems, alleged secret meetings with Pakistani officials are frowned upon but secret meetings with Kashmiri separatist groups are normal.