A war of words erupted between the Congress and BJP on Friday over revelations that former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and successive Congress governments snooped on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family for 20 years.
The Congress accused the Modi government of unleashing a “systematic and sinister propaganda of selective leaks and half truths” to malign not only Nehru but also other national leaders such as Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri and C Rajagopalachari.
“The PM and home minister Rajnath Singh must explain why only file notings of two declassified documents have been released while withholding the correspondence portion of these files. Does that portion contain some inconvenient truth the prime minister's office has chosen to withhold?” asked Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
The controversy was ignited after media reports surfaced about two recently-declassified intelligence reports that said the Union government spied on several members of Bose’s family between 1948 and 1968.
Singhvi said a total of 87 files – 58 by the PMO and 29 by the home ministry -- on Netaji are still classified and demanded all documents be released. The party has repeatedly accused the NDA regime of trying to erase Nehru’s legacy, citing its move to dismantle the planning commission.
But the BJP hit back, calling the episode shocking, and demanded a probe. “If you see the history of Congress, there are lots of hidden things about them. The Congress has a murky past,” Union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said.
Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman said even when the government was unaware of Bose’s whereabouts, it continued snooping until 1968. “This is really surprising and shocking. I certainly feel until 2010-11, snooping had become a part of the Congress' DNA,” she said.
The BJP was backed by Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab who said the information showed Nehru’s image as a true democrat was fragile. “Surveillance for 20 years shows the attitude of the Congress towards one of the greatest sons of India,” said the MP from Cuttack, where Netaji was born.