New Delhi: Inquiries made by a Delhi Police official recently at Rahul Gandhi's residence has snowballed into a political controversy, with the Congress accusing the Narendra Modi government of "political espionage,” and BJP dismissing it as fiction. Miffed over the issue, the Congress on Saturday said it will take up the issue in Parliament.
After the Congress sought an answer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Police chief B.S. Bassi explained that the information sought by the personnel, such as Mr. Gandhi's hair and eye colour, were part of a routine profiling of all residents in security sensitive areas and far from being mala fide.
“Not just Mr. Gandhi, we make such routine visits to the addresses of other VIPs including the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and other protectees ” said Mr. Bassi. Soon after, senior Delhi Police officials said they will omit questions and information objected to by the Congress over the coming days.
The party has however alleged that the incident was actually "illegal surveillance" with the imprint of Modi stamped on it.
“India is a proud democracy, we are not a police state. India is a free state,” said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.
In a veiled reference to the snooping of a young woman in Gujarat during the tenure of Narendra Modi as chief minister, Singhvi, without naming Modi, said "espionage and surveillance" of political rivals may be a Gujarat model but not Indian model.
The Congress spokesperson also demanded 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.”
According to Congress, Delhi Police Assistant Sub Inspector Shamsher Singh was found “roaming around in the vicinity” of Rahul's 12, Tughlaq Lane residence on March 2.
“He was stopped by the SPG staff. When accosted by the staff… it was found that he was trying to fill up a proforma which had very interesting and somewhat weird questions about his name, his father's name, his height, colour of his eyes, colour of his hair, the clothes he wears, and the shoes he wears,” said Singhvi.
“More importantly, the telephone numbers and addresses of each of his associates, friends, what he does, where he goes were sought. The heading under which this gentleman was trying to collect information was ‘Shri Rahul Gandhi, head of political party',” he added.
Following the incident, Youth Congress workers also demonstrated in front of Union home minister Rajnath Singh's residence, and the Congress demanded a statement from Modi and Singh.
However, the BJP slammed the rival for politicizing a police drill, saying that even the PM had responded to the same queries. "The Gandhi family is delusional that it is above the law. They have a history of using such allegations to bring down governments, as in the Chandrashekhar case," BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said.
Bassi has clarified that the police were never asked either by the Prime Minister's Office or the home ministry to visit Rahul's residence and asserted that there was no political pressure on the police.
Rejecting to the Delhi Police claim, Singhvi said: “A person who is an SPG protectee for decades, since he was a child… collecting information on him in this manner, through snooping… It is absolutely absurd and the explanation trotted out by governmental agencies is both laughable and tragic — laughable because it does not make sense and tragic because it cuts at the very root of democratic free India.”
The Congress seems to be trying to re-create the 1991 moment, when it had accused the then Chandra Shekhar government of mounting surveillance on Rajiv Gandhi. The Congress went on to withdraw support to the Chandra Shekhar government over the issue.