Zakir Naik’s donation to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation a bribe, says BJP

'why the Congress party did not return the donation given to it in 2011 when its own government had expressed security concern with regard to Naik’s TV channel'

September 10, 2016 07:30 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 05:05 am IST - New Delhi

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The Rs. 50 lakh donation to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, headed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s NGO was a “bribe” to “shelter” his “anti-national” acitivities, BJP alleged on Saturday.

Mounting a sharp attack on Congress, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused “vested interests” within the UPA government of protecting Naik as he showed a purported reply by then I&B Minister Manish Tewari in the Lok Sabha in 2012 where he had named Naik’s Peace TV as among 24 illegal foreign channels whose contents were not conducive to India’s security environment.

He asked Congress why it did not return the donation given to it in 2011 when its own government had expressed security concern with regard to Naik’s TV channel.

Mr. Prasad also raised doubts over Congress’ claim that the money was returned a few months back, saying the NGO has denied having received the money.

At a press conference, Mr. Prasad also quoted from the then Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan’s letter to Mr. Tewari in February 2013 in which he termed Naik as a “renowned Islamic scholar” and sought the government’s protection for him from campaigns run by a regional channel and a Hindu group.

“Those lobbying for him were at high positions in Congress. Why should not this apprehension be raised that this Rs 50 lakh was a bribe to powers that be to shelter its illegal, anti-national activities,” he said.

He noted that besides Sonia Gandhi being the RGF’s chairperson, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram were among its members.

Attacking the Congress, Mr. Prasad claimed the party’s “utter hypocrisy and disregard for national security” is a matter of shame and dismay.

Asked what the NDA government will do regarding the matter, he said a proper enquiry will be conducted.

“There cannot be a more shameful thing for the Congress to say that it had received money and returned...Whether the money has been returned or not is a matter between them. But what is source of money? Is there a violation of law? It amounts to playing with the national security.”

“Congress party in the past has hesitated in acting against terrorists for votes but it is shameful that an organisation abetting terrorism had access to the top echelons of the organisation,” he alleged.

Quoting from Mr. Khan’s letter to Mr. Tewari, he said the then Minority Affairs Minister had accused some news agencies of projecting Naik as a sympathiser of terrorism and sought action from him “to prevent any confrontation between communities and flaring up of communal sentiments”.

“A then minister of government of India is giving communal colour to apprehensions over terrorism,” Mr. Prasad said.

He also sought to know from the opposition party if the Gandhi family-run RGF was duly registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) and was it allowed to accept contributions from another NGO.

Mr. Prasad also rejected the Congress’ claim that the donation was given to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust (RGCT), saying it is an offshoot of the main body (RGF).

Taking a dig at the outfit, he asked if it accepts money from everybody or does it carry out some examination of the donor’s antecedents.

Targeting Mr. Naik’s NGO Islamic Research Foundation, he said it cannot distribute money like alms to other NGOs and asked if it had obtained prior permission from the Home Ministry for donative a big sum like Rs 50 lakh to RGF.

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