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HindustanTimes Fri,29 Aug 2014
Shooting the messenger
Sujata Anandan, Hindustan Times
November 19, 2013
First Published: 20:52 IST(19/11/2013)
Last Updated: 21:02 IST(19/11/2013)

In 1985, even as India was celebrating its young prime minister and Rajiv Gandhi was making his famous speech on clean politics at the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay during the Congress’ centenary celebrations, ironically, many Congress workers were making merry at Kamathipura.

When journalists caught them in the act and then contacted the then Bombay Congress president Murli Deora’s office for a reaction, he was startled. Then, smiling sheepishly, he said: “I guess boys will be boys. What can I say?”

There were no threats or attempts to suppress the story.

A decade later the BJP’s national convention was held close to the same area where the Congress workers had been lodged in 1985 (Mahalaxmi), near the city’s red light district. And this time, the story came to reporters on a platter: as LK Advani was delivering his presidential address, party workers started to move out of the stadium and make a beeline for Kamathipura.

They did not even bother to hide their identities and reporters got their names and state units from the badges they were wearing.

But far from underplaying that indiscretion of its party workers, BJP leaders threatened reporters with dire consequences if they published the story.

So I always knew that the BJP was rather silly. What I had not expected was that even after all these years and a stint in the government, the party would still not be able to deal with the demands of politics and governance. Their spokespersons are still attempting to scream down journalists and the crux of their arguments still seems to be, “How dare you!’’

This is not to say that the Congress may never have indulged in the kind of snooping that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi seems to have done by spying on a young woman’s private moments in 2009. But this is no Congress conspiracy.

Sure, it might be a dirty trick to expose Modi ahead of the 2014 elections but then, again, that is not to say that the audio tapes, which now reveal that his home minister Amit Shah misused the anti-terrorism squad to spy on a citizen with no terror links for any reason at all, are not authentic. The fact is that the tapes do exist.

Whatever one might or might not say in defence or otherwise of Modi and Shah, I am amazed by the fact that credibility has been lent to that nefarious activity by BJP president Rajnath Singh.

Had it been the Congress caught in an act like that, I would bet my bottom rupee no one would have been able to identify the girl and her family, let alone locate their existence and the Congress would have forced a benefit of doubt for the actors in the conspiracy.

Now, however, Singh himself leaves no room for doubt that the spying and the stalking happened by releasing a statement from the girl’s father that as a close friend he had asked Modi to keep an eye on his daughter -- tying Modi directly to the incident for the tapes mention only a ‘saheb’ who wanted the surveillance done.

Moreover, the father signed the letter under his own name when neither the Congress nor the Cobrapost and Gulail websites made bold to identify the girl as anyone but an architect -- and there could be hundreds of them in Gujarat.

So I am beginning to wonder if, indeed, it is just the Congress here that is up to its dirty tricks or such embarrassment is being put in Modi’s way by others in the BJP itself, whether deliberately or otherwise to reduce the man’s rather forced aura even before we are into 2014.

As for the BJP’s explanations that this was ‘protection’ offered to the girl on her father’s request, well, we all know the difference between protection and downright invasion of privacy and  the violation of a citizen’s rights.

Still, full marks to the BJP for trying!


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