Sushma Swaraj, spokesperson of NDA-backed independent candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, alleged her mobile phone and that of his other campaign leaders were under surveillance. The government wants to keep a tab on their efforts to persuade MPs and MLAs outside the NDA to vote for him, she charged.
"We would like to request the EC that it should ensure that no phone lines are being tapped," she said, adding that she would write a complaint to the telecommunications minister and the MTNL chief.
"Our confidentiality is being disturbed, our communication systems are being frustrated."
Asked if Shekhawat too felt that his phones were under watch, Swaraj said, “he has not said anything so far. ”Swaraj compared the situation to the Watergate scandal involving illegal wiretapping of Democratic party offices in the US ahead of the presidential poll in 1972. Well, this could be called the Raisina Hillgate.”
Swaraj said she found to her dismay that she could not make or receive calls on her official mobile, MTNL Dolphin number 9868181920, and often heard a “hissing sound” when talking to any number.
She said she tried calling BJP leader SS Ahluwalia’s number even as they sat together. She was told his number “did not exist” or had been “switched off.”
Being a former Telecom minister, Swaraj said she was aware of the rules that allowed the government to tap phones of persons suspected to be working against the country’s interests. “But to seek votes for the candidate we are supporting is not anti-national activity. Even our enemies will not accuse us of doing that.”
Ahluwalia said he too was encountering similar problems and alleged “they came to know that I was using a second phone too and did the same with that number.”
Swaraj said the phones of JD(U)'s Digvijay Singh, a key strategist of the Shekhawat campaign, were also under surveillance over the past one week.
She countered Parliamentary affairs minister PR Dasmunsi’s charge that Shekhawat was misusing his office and phones calls were being made to the MPs and MLAs by persons who were introducing themselves as “from the Vice President’s office.”
Swaraj said "his remarks and our phone tapping show the Congress' desperation. I can only pity Dasmunsi."
She said Shekhawat was still the Vice President and it was no big deal if somebody had called up saying that they were from the Vice President’s Office. “He has not traveled anywhere for campaign using official facilities.”
Responding to questions, Swaraj said Shekhawat had nothing to say about the launch of the website – knowpratibhapatil.com by BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley. "He has kept himself completely away from it."
Swaraj said Shekhwat would receive full support from Gujarat BJP leader Keshubhai Patel and his supporters. "They (Patel and his loyalists) are going to vote for him 100 per cent."