Delhi Police on Saturday denied snooping on Rahul Gandhi, saying a local officer’s enquiries during a recent visit to the Congress vice-president’s residence was part of a routine exercise to update their database.
Police commissioner BS Bassi said a local beat officer had handed over on Thursday a standard form seeking basic details such as his name, address and physical characteristics as part of a security drill followed for parliamentarians.
“It will be an injustice to call the work of beat officers snooping. We ask our beat constables to maintain record of all protected persons in their beat, so they are just doing that,” Bassi told reporters.
“Our officer had done the same at LK Advani’s residence a day before they went to Rahul Gandhi’s house. On March 11, our beat officer, Rameshwar Dayal, met the SPG personnel who asked him to take the form to the office staff. The next day, he gave the pro forma to the staff there and left it with them,” he said.
But the Congress accused the government of “political espionage”, saying Delhi police made “unnecessary and weird enquiries” about Gandhi that seemed more like the Gujarat model, a veiled reference to the controversial surveillance of a young woman allegedly by Gujarat authorities when Narendra Modi was chief minister.
The furore followed a media report that a police team had visited Gandhi’s residence to seek details about the 44-year-old’s appearance, such as his height and the colour of his eyes and hair, while he was away on a sabbatical to reflect on the future of the party.
The Congress demanded an explanation from both the Prime Minister and home minister Rajnath Singh on the alleged “intrusion by Delhi Police into Rahul’s personal life” and threatened to raise the issue in Parliament. “This kind of political espionage, snooping, surveillance and intrusion in a political opponent’s life may be the Gujarat model but it is not the Indian model,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
“India is a proud democracy, not a police state. We are a vibrant democracy. This kind of political espionage is condemnable,” he said. “It’s not a Congress-centric issue, it affects all political parties … We will raise this issue in Parliament.”
But Bassi denied the allegation, saying a local beat constable and another special branch officer had taken similar forms to MPs Naresh Agarwal and KP Gujjar as well as Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao before going to Rahul Gandhi’s residence on March 12. The form submitted to Gandhi’s residence, a copy of which is with HT, seeks basic details like a person’s name, address, birth mark, telephone numbers and languages spoken.
He said local police maintained records of “protected persons” as a security measure and similar forms were also given to the domestic staff of parliamentarians residing near their bungalows. Sources said local police submitted at least 500 similar forms last month.
When asked if similar forms had been given to Gandhi’s office in the past, Bassi said, “I am sure, they must have. In times of emergency the local police needs to contact the office staff and that is why we take the details in that form. There are some VIPs who cannot be easily recognised because their pictures do not appear on TV or newspapers, so the pro forma has details like colour of eyes, ears.”
Delhi police informed the PMO that was a routine drill for security. “Such an exercise was also conducted for Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the parliament session started,” said a source.