The BJP may have called the alleged bugging of Pranab Mukherjee’s offices “India’s Watergate” but the finance minister on Wednesday told the media not to pay any attention to such “bogus things”.
"All these are bogus things. Don’t waste your time on this,” he said. On Tuesday too, Mukherjee had cited an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report to say there was nothing suspicious about the “adhesives” found in his North Block offices last year.
But leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, wasn’t convinced and sought to know if the government was spying on its own minister or if it was the doing of a corporate house. “This is a serious matter. The minister himself may try to dismiss it... he may be under some compulsions. But the country wants to know,” she said.
Swaraj said Mukherjee’s complaint to the PM last September seeking a secret probe into “planted adhesives” found in 16 locations — in his own office, those of his adviser Omita Paul and private secretary Manoj Pant and in two conference rooms — should be taken seriously.
She slammed the IB theory that the adhesive could have been chewing gum left behind by maintenance staff.
“If they give such a childish argument and expect the country to believe it, people will laugh and ask where such an intelligent chewing gum came from... (that) sticks itself wherever it goes,” Swaraj said. “Even Mr Mukherjee must know the difference between adhesive and chewing gum.”
Demanding a probe, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar sought to know why Mukherjee “chose to write to the PM… and why he is now backtracking”. But Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said opposition was just making a political issue out of it to divert attention from its own problems. “There’s total internal rebellion (in the BJP) and they are clutching at straws to make allegations at the government,” she said.
The Watergate espionage case took place in Washington in the early ‘70s and ultimately led to the resignation of US president Richard Nixon.