New Delhi: 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 why the Congress 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.
Rejecting the BJP's charges, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, "The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation has not taken any funds. Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust did receive unsolicited funds, but when it came to know it was associated with a wrongful NGO, the money was returned."
But Prasad raised doubts over Congress' claim that the money was returned a few months ago, saying the NGO has denied having received the money.
At a press conference, Prasad also quoted from the then Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan's letter to 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 as 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.