news Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 05:30

| The News Minute | March 15, 2015 | 1:12 p.m. IST |

The Rahul Gandhi “snooping” controversy escalated on Saturday with the Congress accusing the government of “political espionage” and of turning the nation into a police state.

Delhi Police chief BS Bassi, on the other hand, played the issue down calling the visit by a certain Shamsher Singh, “routine”. The BJP have also accused the Congress of politicizing the issue while calling the allegations ludicrous.

What news reports say:

A Firstpost article asks if the practice of recording intrusive information needs to be revised. It quotes Former Research Analysis Wing (RAW) chief AS Dulat saying that there is "no need for such enquiry" because Rahul Gandhi is known to everyone. "What is the need to write about his complexion and clothes when he is known to everyone? People see him speaking live on television, his pictures in newspapers and on internet."

The party has so far not given any convincing reason as to why it chose to be silent on the issue for so long and why it only decided to launch an attack on the Modi government after a news report, quoting top Congress sources was published in the Times of India.

A Sunday Guardian piece though, refutes some arguments when it alleges that the information that was being asked is part of a process that Gandhi had been trying to avoid for some time.

According to the piece: “Sources said that after the Congress led UPA government came to power in 2004, Bharat Wanchoo, a family loyalist and then an IGP rank officer, was given charge of the SPG, superseding many top officials. He remained at the helm of affairs till his superannuation and was subsequently made the Governor of Goa, a post he held until he was asked to resign by the present government. Wanchoo was accused by some of his colleagues in the police of preferring to serve the family rather than the institution (SPG) and overlooked certain procedures to safeguard the privacy of the Gandhis”.

The SPG (Special Protection Group) were constituted for the security of VVIP’s after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and are the cream of officers drawn from para-military forces, the state police and intelligence agencies.

Reportedly, a lot of foreign visits by the Gandhis’ were not recorded by the SPG. The piece further goes on to add that since the UPA have been ousted from power, “host countries” which Rahul visits have been reluctant to guarantee his safety.

Also according to the report, Vivek Srivastava, the current SPG chief and of the Gujarat police cadre, wants to plug all information holes regarding security and the exercise was conducted for precisely that purpose.

“If God forbid, something was to happen to Rahul, the government at the Centre will be blamed,” a top security expert reportedly said to the newspaper on the condition of anonymity.

Political reactions:

The BJP’s Sudhanshu Trivedi said that “They think that the common practices of law do not apply to them”, adding: “If they call it espionage, then it shows their mentality.”

The Congress though has reportedly planned on raising the issue in Parliament and has reached out to other political parties in the opposition.

According to a report in the Indian Express, Congress spokesperson A.M. Singhvi says that “India is a proud democracy; we are not a police state. India is a free state,” he said while demanding a “comprehensive explanation from no less than the Home Minister and the Prime Minister as this issue has far reaching implications for all norms of democracy, limits of intrusion into the lives of political opponents.”

Singhvi though, referencing the earlier “Snoopgate” controversy surrounding the PM, Narendra Modi, is reported to have said: “This kind of political espionage, this kind of snooping and surveillance, this kind of intrusion into political opponents’ lives… This may be the Gujarat model; it is not India’s model”.

On Saturday Singhvi was also quoted as saying “When stopped by SPG,it was found he was trying to fill up per forma with weird questions about Rahul Gandhiji's height, color of eyes, hair” and “The heading under which this man was trying to collect info was 'Rahul Gandhi head of political party”, he added.

Another senior Congress leader PC Chacko called it espionage. “What happened in Rahul Gandhi’s place was an espionage, this is not a police's job, why it was done and under who, we want to know,” Chacko told ANI.

Delhi Police reacts:

The Delhi Police also issued a statement saying that “If he (the policeman) had gone with an ulterior motive or for snooping, he would not have left the pro forma behind... There was no snooping, no instruction from the government of India. There is no pressure on police”, he added.

Bassi also added that “Two cops went to Rahul Gandhi’s residence. Our beat officer, Rameshwar, went to his house on March 11 and sought details about him. As beat officers are not able to directly meet such persons, they contact their office staff and leave the pro forma pertaining to required details”, he’s quoted as saying. 

With inputs from IANS

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