Rak­ing up the con­tro­ver­sy over Ra­hul Gan­dhi be­ing al­leg­ed­ly put un­der "surveillance" by the Cen­tre’s agen­cies, the Con­gress to­day ac­cused the Nar­en­dra Modi gov­ern­ment of al­leg­ed­ly un­der­tak­ing "political espionage" against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents like Ra­hul. The Con­gress de­man­ded a com­pre­hen­sive ex­plan­a­tion from the Prime Min­is­ter Modi and the Un­ion home min­is­ter Raj­nath Singh in this en­tire ep­i­sode.

A re­port was pub­lish­ed in The States­man to­day that some Del­hi Po­lice per­son­nel had re­cent­ly vis­ited the Con­gress vice pres­i­dent Ra­hul’s of­fice to gath­er in­for­ma­tion about his per­son­al de­tails, which high­ly-placed Con­gress sour­ces had de­scri­bed as a "surveillance bid" against him.

Cry­ing foul over Ra­hul be­ing al­leg­ed­ly sub­jec­ted to "snooping and surveillance", the Con­gress to­day as­ser­ted that it will al­so raise the mat­ter in Par­lia­ment af­ter its week­end break.
"This is a se­ri­ous na­tion­al is­sue, and it is not on­ly about Ra­hul but the Op­po­si­tion lead­ers against the Modi gov­ern­ment in gen­er­al. And, it is not on­ly about the Del­hi Po­lice, but about their po­lit­i­cal mas­ters….it is about PM Modi, home min­is­ter, and their gov­ern­ment," the Con­gress spokes­man Ab­hish­ek Singh­vi al­leged as he went on to charge that such ep­i­sodes will un­der­mine the con­sti­tu­tion­al and dem­o­crat­ic foun­da­tion of the coun­try.

The Del­hi Po­lice re­jec­ted the al­le­ga­tions of sur­veil­lance-snoop­ing on Gan­dhi, with its com­mis­sion­er B L Bas­si main­tain­ing that there was no ma­la fide in­ten­tion be­hind the re­cent vis­it of a cou­ple of city po­lice per­son­nel to Ra­hul’s res­i­dence since it was part of a rou­tine se­cur­i­ty au­dit for dis­tin­guish­ed and vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple. 
The rul­ing BJP al­so ech­oed this ex­plan­a­tion, dis­miss­ing the Con­gress’s "conspiracy- snooping" charg­es as un­foun­ded and base­less. It al­so ac­cused the Con­gress of mak­ing at­tempts to "politicise" and "sensationalise" a "routine mat­ter con­cern­ing se­cur­i­ty of leaders" as the Op­po­si­tion par­ty had run out of all is­sues.

The Con­gress, how­ev­er, re­jec­ted such claims as "absurd and laughable" that the ep­i­sode was on­ly a rou­tine mat­ter con­cern­ing Ra­hul’s se­cur­i­ty.

 Singh­vi poin­ted out that Ra­hul has been a pro­tect­ee of the elite Spe­cial Pro­tec­tion Group (SPG) for the past few dec­a­des. "Delhi Po­lice has bet­ter things to do, giv­en the high in­ci­dence of crimes, rapes and se­ri­ous law and or­der sit­ua­tion in Del­hi rath­er than fol­low­ing the dik­tats of their po­lit­i­cal mas­ters to do such il­le­gal snoop­ing," he charg­ed.
Go­ing af­ter PM Modi, who had been the Gu­jar­at chief min­is­ter for over a dec­ade be­fore tak­ing over the reins of the coun­try in May last year, the Con­gress spokes­man al­leged : "This kind of po­lit­i­cal es­pion­age…this kind of in­tru­sion in po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents’ life– this may be Gu­jar­at mod­el. It is not In­dia’s mod­el. The track re­cord shows it is a mod­el per­fec­ted in Gu­jar­at es­pe­cial­ly for po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, judg­es, jour­nal­ists and pri­vate per­sons."

The 44-year-old Congress vice president has been on “introspection leave” since late last month and is now expected to return here from his sabbatical only by the end of this month.

 

Rahul is believed to be abroad, although the Congress camp has all along refrained from spelling out his whereabouts and other details. The status of his security overseas is also unclear.

Briefing reporters over the controversy, Singhvi said a few days ago an ASI of Delhi Police, Shamsher Singh, from “the city police headquarters and not the local Tughlak Road police station”, was found “snooping around and making weird and unnecessary enquiries” outside Rahul&’s Tughlak Lane residence-office.

This police official was “stopped” by the SPG personnel and “accosted” by Rahul&’s staff, said Singhvi. “It turned out then that the police official was trying to fill up a proforma under the heading ‘Rahul Gandhi, head of a political party”, which had questions like Rahul&’s father&’s name, his height, the colour of his eyes and hair, details of his shoes and clothes, what he does, where he goes, and phone numbers and addresses of his friends and associates.”
Singhvi also made it clear that the Congress might reveal “more facts, more details” regarding the controversy in coming days.

Downplaying the question of the party&’s complaint against the Delhi Police, Singhvi said, “Police role is a minor aspect in this matter. We are raising a much larger issue with far-reaching implications for our democracy and fundamental constitutional rights. We are not a police state but a proud democracy and a free State.”

He also drew parallels with alleged Snoopgate and phone-tapping scandals of Gujarat in recent years. Seeking to reach out to other Opposition parties, the Congress spokesman maintained : “We demand a comprehensive explanation by no less than the home minister and the Prime Minister of India. This is not a Congress-centric issue. It affects all parties in the Opposition, who are capable of opposing the Prime Minister and the BJP….It is something against which parties irrespective of political colour should take a stand”.

Bassi however told reporters that such security surveys were conducted at the offices of dignitaries and protected persons regularly as part of the Delhi Police&’s efforts to ensure prevention and detection of crimes and maintaining of law and order. Holding that Rahul alone was not subjected to such a security protocol, the Delhi police chief purportedly said, “Police also visited houses of Veerappa Moily, L K Advani, K Chandrasekhar Rao among others. There was no mala fide intention behind seeking details about Rahul Gandhi.”

Bassi also asserted that the central government had nothing to do with such routine security matters of the Delhi Police and that there was no question of any political pressure on the police force of the national capital. He added that the city police also kept details of top leaders like the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the BJP president Amit Shah and even the Prime Minister Modi.

Hitting back, the BJP charged the Congress with having a “snooping mindset” itself. The BJP spokesman Sudhangshu Trivedi said the city police&’s “routine” information-gathering exercise vis-a-vis Rahul had also been done in the cases of the PM, home minister, Shah, Advani and other Opposition leaders. Singhvi made it clear that the Congress will raise the controversy within Parliament and on the streets. During the day, scores of Youth Congress workers protested on the issue near Rajnath Singh&’s residence.