Snooping, phone tapping row: State begins probeUpdated: Jan 25, 2020 00:29 IST
Amid the row over allegations of phone tapping during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rule in Maharashtra, the state police began a probe into the claims. The BJP, however, denied the charges.
State home minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday alleged the phones of the leaders namely Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Sena leader Sanjay Raut were tapped by the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led government during and after the Assembly elections late last year. “The probe is being conducted to check whether the government machinery was used to keep a tab on leaders from other parties. The government will also probe if any officers were involved in purchase of a software from an Israeli firm, Pegasus, that was used to snoop on Opposition leaders,” he said.
According to officials from the home department, a few police officials from the cyber cell and intelligence department are likely to be questioned in this connection.
Fadnavis, who was in charge of the home department during the five years of the BJP’s rule, said no such orders were given to the police or any government machinery. “The credibility of the person who has complained about tapping is in question. The state is free to conduct an inquiry into the allegations. Minister of state for home (Deepak Kesarkar) was from the Shiv Sena. The government should conduct a probe and send investigating officers to Israel if need be, and make the report public at the earliest,” he said in a statement, adding tapping phones was never the culture of Maharashtra.
The row was sparked off after senior Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh, in a series of tweets, alleged that a few senior government officials from previous Maharashtra government were involved in tapping and snooping. “Digvijayji had said that the phones of Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena leaders were tapped by the government during elections and even during the formation of the three-party government. We have begun the investigation and expect a report soon,” Deshmukh told reporters on Thursday.
Kesarkar said he was not aware of any such tapping. “The tapping issue was never discussed in our meetings with the home and police officials. As a minister of state, my powers were very limited and I was in charge of rural part of the state,” he said.
Meanwhile, Raut tweeted on Friday: “A senior BJP minister had told me that my phone was being tapped. I told him whoever wishes to listen to my conversations is free to do so. I am a disciple of Balasaheb Thackeray ji, I don’t do anything secretly. Listen to my conversation (sic).”
NCP leader and housing minister Jitendra Awhad said, “Phone tapping during the Fadnavis government was a known fact and I had raised this on the floor of the house several times.”