An expose into alleged “state-sponsored stalking” of a young woman in Gujarat prompted the ruling Congress Party yesterday to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
The BJP, however, blamed the Congress’ “dirty tricks wing.”
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari demanded a thorough probe into the expose by investigative websites Cobrapost and Gulail.com and said BJP president Rajnath Singh should provide an explanation.
Singh was quick to respond in Raipur: “There is no question of rethinking on our PM candidate even if a thousand baseless allegations... are made. We apprehend that the Congress’ dirty tricks wing will make such allegations... as the elections draw near.”
Attacking Modi without naming him, Tewari said the “dark clouds of fascism” and “a great evil stalks” the land following allegations of “state-sponsored stalking” in Gujarat on the orders of former minister Amit Shah who did it for his “saheb” (boss).
According to the expose, the woman’s movements and her conversations were being covered by the Gujarat “state Intelligence Bureau, the Crime Branch and the Anti-Terrorist Squad in August 2009 on oral orders, without any valid legal authorisation, and was meant only to serve the interests of someone whom the then minister of state for home, Amit Shah, addressed as ‘saheb’.”
Tewari said at an event: “As we go about upholding constitutional values and go about our chores, dark clouds of fascism loom ominously over the horizon, a great evil stalks our land.”
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, who never spares an opportunity to attack Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, tweeted: “Would All Modi lovers pl react and condemn it or as a true loyalist defend Modi and Amit Shah.”
“Modi and Amit Shah use Gujarat Police to spy on an innocent girl! Didn’t Gujarat Police and then Home Minister violate the Law of the Land?”, he tweeted.
Congress spokesman Meem Afzal demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the allegations.
Afzal said Amit Shah should reveal the name of the “saheb” for whom he asked the police and state intelligence 2009 to tail a young woman in Bangalore. He also said that Shah, who was then minister of state for home, should explain why saheb was “so much interested” in the woman.
Tewari said: “The first casualty of the society would be the constriction of liberal space, curtailment of creativity and circumscribing the right to challenge convention and think off the beaten path.”
“If the alleged expose about state-sponsored stalking is correct, I would be worried, not as a woman but as a civil libertarian about the Orwellian state that some esteemed gentlemen aim to create,” he added.
Later, speaking to journalists, Tewari called for a thorough probe into the allegations.
“The BJP president should give a cogent explanation to the expose by Cobrapost.com and Gulail with regard to the state-sponsored stalking,” he said.
He wondered why the BJP has gone “completely silent on this alleged state-sponsored stalking.”
He said the “irony and intriguing” part was that while the expose did not name the alleged ‘saheb’ the BJP had “come up with trumped up clarifications” - referring to the clarification by the unnamed woman’s father.
Pranlal Soni, father of the woman, has come out with a statement saying he had himself requested Modi to “look after” his daughter. The father’s statement for the first time links the controversy to Modi.
Tewari warned that people should seriously ponder over the events in Gujarat under Modi, including the 2002 riots, the fake shootouts and the state-sponsored stalking.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) too demanded a court investigation.
The party said the release of the tape-recorded conversations raises serious questions about the state of civil liberties in Gujarat.
“To use the powers of the state and further to use the anti-terrorist squad to snoop on the private life of a young woman, to follow her every movement, to snoop also on her other family members and friends, shows the utterly unethical and illegal practices and degeneration of the minimum norms of democratic governance under Modi,” the party said.
The CPM also said the Gujarat government must take immediate action against Shah and the police officers for violating the Indian Telegraph Act.
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