Addressing a press conference here, BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia cited purported claims of the Pakistani journalist, Nusrat Mirza, to allege that Ansari shared many “sensitive and highly classified” information with him.
Bhatia also cited comments of a former operative of RAW, India’s external spy agency, to allege that Ansari had harmed the country’s interests when he was its envoy to Iran.
Ansari, who was the vice president between 2007-17 and before that had served as India’s envoy to several countries including Iran, rejected this charge also and said that his work as ambassador to Iran was at all times within the knowledge of the government of the day.
Rebutting the BJP’s claim of inviting Mirza, Ansari said it is a known fact that invitations to foreign dignitaries by the Vice-President of India are on the advice of the government generally through the Ministry of External Affairs.
BJP spokesperson Bhatia also slammed the Congress, which was in power between 2004-14, and asked its leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to come clean on the allegations. He claimed that Congress can go to any extent in its “petty and ugly politics and compromise” national interest.
Hitting back, the Congress strongly condemned the “insinuations and innuendos” by the BJP against party president Sonia Gandhi and the former vice president, saying it amounts to “character assassination of the worst form”.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said in a statement that the levels that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party colleagues will stoop to debase public debate is staggering.
“It reflects sickness of mind and lack of any form of integrity whatsoever,” Ramesh said.
Clips of Pakistani journalist Mirza’s interview in Pakistan have been doing the rounds on social media for the last few days in which he stated that he attended a seminar on terrorism in India in which Ansari spoke. Mirza also claimed to have given secret and classified information to the Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Citing Mirza’s claims, Bhatia said, “People of India are giving you so much respect and you are betraying the country. Isn’t this treason? Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Hamid Ansari should come out and reply to this.”
Bhatia also claimed that Mirza in his interview had said that Ansari invited him five times to India during 2005-11.
Gurdeep Singh Sappal, who had served as Ansari’s officer on special duty, rejected the allegations, saying Mirza has not said that Ansari had invited him and the Pakistani journalist just happened to be at the seminar where the then Vice President gave a speech on terrorism.
In a series of tweets, Sappal also referred to a video of Mirza in which he is heard saying that when he was invited to a seminar in 2010, Ansari was the ‘naib sadar’ (vice president).
In his statement, Ansari said, “I had inaugurated the Conference on Terrorism, on December 11, 2010, the ‘International Conference of Jurists on International Terrorism and Human Rights’. As is the normal practice, the list of invitees would have been drawn by the organisers. I never invited him or met him.”
On the BJP’s charge of having harmed the country’s interests when he was its envoy to Iran, the former vice president said his work as ambassador to Iran was at all times within the knowledge of the government of the day.
He said he is bound by the commitment to national security in such matters and will refrain from commenting on them.
“The Government of India has all the information and is the only authority to tell the truth. It is a matter of record that after my stint in Tehran, I was appointed India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. My work there has been acknowledged at home and abroad,” Ansari said.
In his remarks, Bhatia said if Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi besides the then vice president remain silent on the questions raised by the ruling party, it will amount to their admission to these “sins”.
“He took the information from Ansari and it was used against India,” Bhatia alleged, adding that Mirza was also invited to a seminar on the issue of terrorism.
“A person who is sharing information with the ISI is invited to come to India. Was this the Congress’ policy to end terrorism?
“This is the party’s poisonous mindset. Our government has resolved to root out terrorism. On the other hand, this is the Congress mindset,” he said.
Other BJP leaders also attacked Ansari.
BJP vice president Baijayant Jay Panda tweeted, “It is astonishing to read about the claims of a Pakistani journalist involving our former Vice President Hamid Ansari. What is even more shocking is that he got a 2nd term during the UPA govt! Were the top posts compromised during that period? It raises some serious doubts.”
Citing Mirza’s claims, Bhatia said he was given the visa to visit seven Indian cities against the practice of three cities.
Asked if the BJP was seeking legal action in the matter, he said the party’s job is to raise issues and it is for the investigation agencies to probe.