The government appeared headed for fresh trouble on Friday over allegations of intelligence agencies tapping the phones of four senior political leaders, including Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
Apart from Pawar, the mobile phones of senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and CPI (M) general secretary Prakash Karat were allegedly tapped during the last three years, the Outlook magazine said.
The latest and most serious telephonic conversation allegedly tapped has Pawar talking to the controversial IPL chief Lalit Modi earlier this month, the weekly stated.
The magazine said the National Technical Research Organisation that comes under the Prime Minister’s Office conducted the monitoring.
Government officials, however, said the phone tapping would have been done at the instance of some other intelligence agency. “NTRO is not an authorised agency to tap phones,” one of them said.
The phones were allegedly tapped, deploying “off the air” interception devices by intelligence agencies that do not require them to seek cooperation from phone service providers.
“Discussions between the minister and IPL commissioner Modi were tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the scandal in the cricket league. The recorded conversations allegedly threw up inside details of the deals struck in the bidding for various teams,” says the Outlook.
Pawar declined to comment on the issue, but the story was not denied so far.
The conversation related to Digvijay Singh dates from February 2007, in which he discussed the Congress organisational elections for Punjab with a state leader.
Kumar’s mobile was allegedly tapped in October 2007. “Nitish had called a colleague in Delhi seeking his help to lobby with the Planning Commission for more funds for Bihar. He also discussed certain projects for flood relief and a project related to river Kosi,” the magazine stated.
The phones of top Left leaders, including Karat, were tapped in July 2008, when the UPA government and the Left fell out on the Indo-US civilian nuke deal. “One intelligence agency targeted some leaders of the Left Front, including Karat, to fathom their strategy to bring down the government,” the Outlook wrote.
The disclosure led to strong reactions from the Opposition. The BJP warned the government that it would face the music in Parliament next week on the issue.