A recorded phone call, which on Wednesday purportedly ‘exposed’ Arvind Kejriwal’s alleged attempt at poaching Congress MLAs surprised many, because the AAP leader has himself been an advocator of ‘sting’. But the party has a history of running as well as falling prey to such covert operations.
The party that emerged out of an anti-corruption movement has been synonymous with spy cams, voice recorders and such gadgets - all to expose graft, trap poachers, capture distribution of liquor and money during elections, and also to record conversations with journalists and colleagues. Insiders say the party has an ‘institutionalised mechanism’ for covert operations.
In September last year, Kejriwal released a sting video purportedly showing a Delhi BJP leader offering money to an AAP leader to switch sides. “It was result of a long campaign. When an AAP leader claimed she was being offered money to switch sides, we thought we should have recorded it. It was then we started putting in place a formal mechanism to carry out sting operations,” said an AAP functionary.
During elections, the party provides its volunteers with thousands of spy cams and other devices to capture attempts to influence voters with money and liquor.
“Arvind has a great fascination for stings,” said Kejriwal’s one-time associate.
Some party volunteers record conversations with unsuspecting journalists for ‘future consumption’. “We all know how a party volunteer recorded a conversation with a journalist. This was later played at a party meeting to target a senior leader. The clip was also made public,” said the leader, who has now moved to another party.
In the run-up to the 2013 assembly polls, a sting operation by a web portal claimed AAP candidates were involved in corruption. The party said it was a fake. Dinesh Mohaniya was one of those who were stung. But months later he himself pulled off a sting.
“Volunteers helped create an impression that Mohaniya, who played along for three days, was ‘vulnerable’ and ‘can be approached to switch sides’. A volunteer recorded whatever was happening, while Mohaniya had been trained to strike the right notes’,” said a source.
“Sting violates privacy. From a woman’s perspective, it’s even more violative. Sadly India does not have a privacy law. This party is in power in the national capital. It cannot turn Delhi into a surveillance state,” said a journalist who has tracked the party for a long time.
Phone calls and text messages to five AAP leaders for a reaction went unanswered. AAP leader Rajesh Garg who recorded his conversation with Kejriwal said, “Sting is fine. This is how you expose people.”