The Congress on Saturday alleged political espionage behind the visit by a Delhi police official to Rahul Gandhi’s office and vowed to put the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government on the mat in Parliament over this issue.
Congress leaders, miffed at what they termed as an attempt to snoop on the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, said the visit was "unwarranted" and "weird enquiries" were made about Gandhi’s appearance. Gandhi is on a sabbatical at the moment and was absent from Parliamentary proceedings this week.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told television reporters that a Delhi police official from the police headquarters in the heart of the city was “found snooping and making unwarranted and weird enquiries” about Gandhi and “generally roaming around in the vicinity of his residence”.
“He was accosted by the staff at the residence of Rahul Gandhi with a pro forma with questions pertaining to Rahul Gandhi’s height, the size of his shoes, the colour of his hair and eyes, and more significantly (he) wanted the telephone numbers of his associates and friends, where he goes, what he does,” Singhvi said.
“Baffled And Intrigued”
The Times of India quoted Congress sources as saying that the policemen came calling at Gandhi’s office at 12 Tuglak Lane last week and the enquiries have left the party “baffled and intrigued”.
"Getting into the privacy of the individual is a crime. Rahul Gandhi is a famous person who has nothing to hide," NDTV quoted senior Congress leader PC Chacko as saying. Gandhi, 44, is protected by the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) and has Z-plus security.
A police team, led by Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Jatin Narwal, today visited Gandhi's Tughlak Lane residence to enquire about the incident and the sequence of events. The team also checked the pictures of the policemen who had visited Gandhi's residence a couple of days ago.
There is a spate of robberies in Lutyens Delhi & the police reach Rahul Gandhi's office to find out what he looks like. You have to laugh.
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) March 14, 2015
Rahul Gandhi's whereabouts not known by anyone, looks like his absence has mentally affected Cong: Sudhanshu Trivedi pic.twitter.com/jKowIOVWXu
— ANI (@ANI_news) March 14, 2015
The police team will give a report in this regard to Delhi Police Commissioner B S Bassi.
Singhvi identified the policeman who came calling as Shamsher Singh who had also asked about Gandhi’s age, height, his father's name and the places he visits.
The incident gave ammo to Singhvi to launch a sharp attack on the government saying it is a case of "political espionage and snooping" on rivals. 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 track record shows this kind of espionage was perfected in Gujarat for political opponents," he said.
But Delhi Police rejected the allegation of snooping and said the visit by policemen was a routine practice of being in touch with the dignitaries and there was no malafide in it.
Police Commissioner B S Bassi said such surveys were conducted at the offices of all protected persons from time to time owing to prevention and detection of crime and maintaining of law and order.
"Rahul Gandhi was not targeted by the police. It was a routine activity which is done to keep records of vulnerable personalities. Police also visited houses of Veerappa Moily, L K Advani, K Chandrasekhar Rao among others. There was no
malafide intension behind seeking details about Gandhi," Bassi told reporters.
The Police Commissioner said police was never asked either by Prime Minister Office or Home Ministry to visit Rahul's residence and asserted that there was no political pressure on police.
Politics Today: This kind of snooping and surveillance on Rahul Gandhi is political espionage: Congress... http://t.co/kVWy2GuQ4v
— Amitava Sarkar (@amitava235) March 14, 2015
The BJP hit back at Congress saying the opposition party has the habit of seeing conspiracies even in "routine" matters and considered itself above the law.
BJP also used the occasion to question the absence of Gandhi, saying his continued absence had "disturbed" the Congress so much that this has led to the party leaders' "loss of mental balance" and they do not know what they were saying.
BJP spokesman Sudhangshu Trivedi termed the police verification on Gandhi as a "routine exercise" carried out by Delhi Police for years, saying the same had been done even in the case of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and BJP chief Amit Shah, veteran leader L K Advani and other senior opposition leaders like M Veerappa Moily, Naresh Agarwal and K Chandrasekhar Rao.
"It is a routine exercise being carried out for years. If Congress wants to make this a political issue, it shows its mentality that it considers itself above the law," he said.
Congress, Trivedi alleged, was devoid of any issues that is why it was making an issue out of such matters to gain political relevance.
He alleged Congress had resorted to snooping during its own rule when reports of bugging on the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee had surfaced but no satisfactory explanation was given by the government.
"In the last government, such allegations of espionage cropped up during the UPA regime with regard to former Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on which no unsatisfactory answer was given.
The BJP leader also accused Congress of appointing a special officer in the Home Ministry for only keeping a close watch on the developments in Gujarat, which was "unprecedented" and against all norms and the federal structure.
"Doing politics on such issues is part of their character," he said.
(With inputs from agencies)