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.