Cong targets govt in Parliament over Rahul Gandhi 'snooping' row

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 16, 2015 11:17 IST

The Congress party's allegations of 'political espionage' on vice-president Rahul Gandhi triggered an uproar in Parliament on Monday, even as Delhi Police clarified that the policemen's visit to the leader's residence was purely a 'routine job'.

"I've been under Z-plus security for 19 years, but no such routine security check was conducted on me," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, referring to the controversy.

Azad demanded a statement from home minister Rajnath Singh on the issue.

Before the proceedings began, Delhi Police chief BS Bassi briefed MoS home Kiren Rijiju on the 'snooping' controversy. Rijiju is likely to make a statement in Parliament.

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma had earlier said, "The present government has much to answer when it comes to right of privacy of citizens. They are now trying to do it everywhere what was happening in one state."

The comment alluded to the 'snoopgate scandal' in which it was alleged that a young woman in Gujarat was spied upon illegally by the state machinery under the directions of the president president of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Amit Shah, who was then the junior home minister in the state.

The Congress also claimed that phones of senior opposition leaders were being "tapped" and surveillance being carried on them.

"It is not confined to one person. It is much deeper," Sharma told reporters.

Sharma conceded he did not have proof to back his allegation as "letters are not sent for phone tapping to political leaders, judges and others".

He stressed that the Opposition had raised the issue of illegal phone tapping at the last session too, but home minister Rajnath Singh had denied the allegation.

The BJP promptly dismissed the allegation.

"This is absolutely an atrocious charge by the Congress," environment minister Prakash Javadekar told reporters in Hyderabad.

Last week a media report revealed that a Delhi 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.

Soon after the Congress had demanded an explanation from both the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Singh on the alleged 'intrusion by Delhi Police into Rahul's personal life' and threatened to raise the issue in Parliament.

The Delhi Police had, however, denied that there was any intention of 'snooping' in the case and said that it was the part of routine exercise to update their database.

Delhi Police commissioner BS Bassi said a local beat officer had handed over 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.

Some media reports have also pointed to the fact that in 1991 Congress had brought down the Chandrasekhar government on the basis of the allegations that former PM Rajiv Gandhi was being subjected to illegal surveillance.

Gandhi is on a sabbatical since the start of the Budget session of Parliament on February 23.?

The party has also threatened to take the issue of dropping of Gandhi Jayanti from a list of government-endorsed holidays for commercial and industrial establishments in Goa to Parliament, with party Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik demanding an explanation from home minister Rajnath Singh.

"The BJP has insulted the Father of the Nation. Since then it is a question which involves Mahatma Gandhi, home minister Rajnath Singh should make a statement," Naik said, adding that he would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday.

The move had sparked a nationwide controversy, forcing a reluctant BJP to call it a mistake, even as the Congress demanded an explanation from the Union home ministry for the gaffe.

The notification dropping Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) from the list of holidays for "commercial and industrial" establishments was issued in September last year, but it suddenly became a subject of controversy on Saturday, with the Congress accusing the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party of insulting Mahatma Gandhi and sullying his image.

On Sunday evening, chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar broke his silence on the issue, calling the content of the notification erroneous and blaming the Congress party for mischief.

"The government has no intention of dropping Gandhi Jayanti as a holiday. If it has happened it was either by mistake or mischief by the Congress. There is an election (zilla panchayat) election in Goa, the Congress will go to any level to create a controversy," Parsekar told reporters.

The department for information and publicity too issued a statement after the chief minister's interaction with the media clarifying that Gandhi Jayanti holiday has not been cancelled.

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