In an RTI application that sought evidence to substantiate PM Narendra Modi's accusation that the Congress leadership colluded with Pakistani authorities ahead of the Gujarat elections last year, the PMO said Modi’s statements come from 'multiple channels, including formal and informal' sources.
Addressing a rally at Palanpur city in Gujarat, PM Modi on 10 December 2017 had alleged, “There was a meeting convened at (Mani Shankar) Aiyar’s residence where Pakistan’s High Commissioner, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Ansari and Manmohan Singh were present. The meeting lasted three hours.” The implication was that the Congress party had been colluding with the Pakistani government, in an attempt to “influence” the results of the Gujarat elections.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Kehra during a press conference held on 9 June said, “The PM who was elected by a democractic process is questioning democracy relying on informal sources? Who is this informal source? We would like to know.”
Khera however wrongly attributed BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli’s response to The Quint as the official RTI response from the PMO’s office.
On 8 June, when The Quint had reached out to BJP spokesperson and supreme court advocate Nalin Kohli for a comment he had said:
The information sought pertains to the PM speaking during a political campaign. The information obviously does not relate to a policy matter or a decision of the government. So with regard to the PM, he is entitled to receive informal or formal information from multiple sources, officials, public or even otherwise. One is unable to understand the allegation of the individual. And what the problem is with the reply.Nalin Kohli to The Quint
The PMO’s Response
The response, which was accessed by The Quint reads, “While information sought does not form part of records held by this office, it may be noted that inputs received from multiple channels, including formal and informal, form the source of PM’s statements.”
First RTI Application Stonewalled
When Gokhale’s initial request was stonewalled, he filed an appeal. Gokhale’s appeal was heard by the appellate authority, which then ordered the PMO’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) to respond to the RTI within 30 days. The RTI was filed on 12 December last year and while rules state that the response should be received within 30 days, this query was resolved six months later.
Speaking to The Quint, Gokhale said that the reason he had filed an RTI requesting the source for the prime minister’s statements, was because it addressed the key issues of national security and the electoral process.
It is a matter of grave concern that the PM would rely on hearsay while making grave allegations that impeach our electoral process purely for his own election campaigning.Saket Gokhale to The Quint
Gokhale also told The Quint over email, that “It is even more surprising that the PM's office itself has no source, intel, or input to credibly back the PM's allegations.”
Modi had also claimed that the former Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor had been present at this ‘meeting’ with Pakistani officials at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s residence and that former Pakistan Army General, Arshad Rafiq, had ‘announced’ that he favoured senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel as the Gujarat chief minister.
Why did they have to have a meeting with Pakistani officials? Pakistan is our enemy. You (Congress) meet them and the next day call me ‘neech’. Isn’t this a thing to worry about? Does it not raise doubts? There is something dubious here, isn’t it? You should have ensured the presence of government officials at the meeting. Why are you holding meetings with our enemy neighbour in secrecy?Narendra Modi, in Palanpur, Gujarat on 10 December 2017
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