Varun Gandhi refutes allegations of leaking defence info in open letter

BJP MP Varun Gandhi who has been in the news for building houses for debt-hit farmers in Uttar Pradesh, is now at the receiving end with one US-based lawyer, C Edmonds Allen, claiming that controversial arms dealer Abhishek Verma ''blackmailed'' Gandhi into sharing sensitive information of the defence consultative committee on crucial military deals.

The allegation that BJP's Sultanpur MP was ''blackmailed'' by Abhishek Verma into sharing sensitive information of the defence consultative committee on crucial military deals, may come as a surprise to many, especially after Varun Gandhi on Tuesday donated nearly 100 homes to poor farmers.

But that has all come to naught with the so-called US lawyer claiming in a letter to the Prime Minister's Office last month that the controversial arms dealer by Abhishek Verma extracted sensitive defence information from the MP.

Varun Gandhi today responded with a two-page open letter to ''fellow countrymen'' stating that there is ''not one grain of truth or shred of evidence'' against him in the allegation about the leaking classified defence information to arms manufacturers.

Varun Gandhi in his letter, written in English, claims that he had never attended a meeting of the defence consultative committee while he had attended very few meetings of the standing committee.

''Clearly, I was neither actively seeking out or passing on any information. Had there been any hidden agenda or motivation as alleged in the letter, it would have been reflected in my attendance,'' Gandhi said, adding, that he could not, and did not, have any access to any sensitive defence information. ''So the question of being allegedly coerced into revealing anything does not arise,'' Gandhi said.

On the lawyer's claim of furnishing details to the CBI and ED, he said, ''Had these top agencies (had) even the least suspicion or proof of any involvement whatsoever on my part in all these years, it would surely have been reported by now,'' he insisted.

The BJP leader said he will take legal recourse against those who spread ''lies'' and sought to tarnish his reputation and public standing. ''In public life, one learns to take criticism and detractor in one's stride. However all criticism must be based on some fact. In this instance there is not one grain of truth or one shred of evidence,'' he said in the open letter. ''Here, I simply wanted to share the truth without delay so that such mischief is nipped in the bud.''

Varun Gandhi said the US-based lawyer, whom he never met, was naming public figures like him to attract greater public attention for his grievances, real or imagined, against his former associate Verma. ''I have needlessly been sought to be embroiled into a controversy in which I have no part,'' he said.

He also reiterated that he first made acquaintance with Verma when he was a college student in England. ''He was introduced as the son of late Smt Veena and Shri Shrikant Verma, both Members of Parliament from a well respected family. We met socially over a short period of time. It has been many years since we last met. At no point did we ever discuss work, neither his nor mine,'' Gandhi said.

Quoting media reports, he said, Allen and Verma had some business dealings that went sour. ''It would seem that a disgruntled Allen is now seeking maximum publicity for his charges against his erstwhile associate,'' Gandhi said.

He also said the Verma-Allen row has long been the subject of a detailed investigation by both the CBI?and the ED, and there are ongoing proceedings regarding the same, including chargesheets that have been filed.

''It is ludicrous to suggest that I was ever blackmailed, as I had done nothing wrong. It is even more bizarre to claim that I leaked top secret defence information from the defence parliamentary committee when every parliamentarian is well aware that no sensitive defence information is shared with such a parliamentary panel,'' he said.