File photo: Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.(PTI )
File photo: Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot.(PTI )

BJP corners Gehlot govt on phone tapping; demands resignation, CBI probe

  • Months after the political crisis in Rajasthan, the Gehlot government admitted that the phones were intercepted to maintain public order.
By Sachin Saini, Jaipur
UPDATED ON MAR 15, 2021 11:21 PM IST

The BJP cornered chief minister Ashok Gehlot-led Rajasthan government on Monday for allegedly tapping phones and misusing the government machinery to curb the rebel inside the party. The party even demanded Gehlot's resignation on moral grounds.

Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, posted a series of tweets with the hashtag RajasthanCrisis, after news reports emerged stating that phones were tapped during the time of political crisis in Rajasthan.

Months after the political crisis in Rajasthan, the Gehlot government admitted that the phones were intercepted to maintain public order and in the interest of public safety.

Amid the political crisis, senior BJP MLA Kali Charan Saraf, in August 2020, had put up a question, "Is this true that phone tapping cases have come up in the last days? If yes, under which law and whose orders? Place complete details on the table of the House".

Saraf had raised the question during the special assembly session called by the government to prove its majority through floor test after 18 MLAs led by then Deputy CM Sachin Pilot rebelled against the leadership.

An alleged leaked telephonic conversation between a Union minister and Congress leaders in Rajasthan had triggered the political crisis in the state, which also gave rise to the charges of illegal phone tapping.

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In the reply to the question raised by Saraf, the home department replied, “In the interest of the public safety and public order, and to prevent the occurrence of a crime which might risk public safety or public order, the telephones are intercepted under the provision of section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, and section 419(A) of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007, and section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 – after an approval by a competent officer.”

The department further stated that the telephone interception had been done by the Rajasthan Police under the above provision and after obtaining permission from the competent officer. “Interception cases are reviewed by the chief secretary as per rules and all cases till November 2020 have been reviewed,” the reply stated.

“I had asked these questions in the last assembly session. The questions were raised in reference to the political crisis. I haven’t received the written reply to the questions asked,” said Saraf.

In a series of tweets, Shekhawat said, “This is what the BJP said in July last year - 'Emergency is going on in Rajasthan'. The Gehlot government denied it at the time and is now accepting that the phones were tapped. This is a violation of privacy, the murder of democracy!”

“Gehlot had remained a saint on the phone tape case then, he will have to answer today. I am questioning him because he made the internal fight within his party administrative!”

“I feel sorry for the helplessness of the Congress! The legislators, including the young leaders of his own party, were caught in the trap of phone tapping! But such a culmination of insult has been the tradition of the Congress! How should Rajasthan trust a government that does not trust its MLAs only,” he tweeted.

State BJP chief Satish Poonia tweeted saying Gehlot crossed all limits to save his chair. "They conspired against the people of their own party and even tapped phones of leaders of the opposition party in an unethical manner and even spied," he said.

Poonia demanded a CBI inquiry in the phone tapping matter. "It has become such a serious matter that lies were spoken in the House and facts were tampered with. The chief minister, who holds the home portfolio, is guilty of this,” he told reporters. He said that that the chief minister should resign from the post and the matter should be investigated by the CBI.

Leaders of the Gehlot camp had alleged that BJP leaders were involved in horse-trading of Rajasthan Congress MLAs to topple the government. The state government had rejected allegations last year that phone tapping was done.

Gehlot had categorically stated in the last assembly session that no illegal phone tapping of any elected representative was done in the state.

Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi said in the reply by the government, the process of conducting phone tapping has been told. After permission from the competent authority, phone tapping is being done. The Rajasthan government has not tapped any phone of MLA or Minister. “If Gajendra Singh Shekhawat is so confident that phones were tapped, why doesn’t he give his voice samples, which will prove whether the phone was tapped or not,” he said.

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