If it was the controversy over the Indian Premier League (IPL) that stalled the proceedings in Parliament last week, it appears to be the turn of the phone tapping issue to put the government in a tight spot this week.

The Opposition plans to corner it on Monday over the report on the alleged tapping of the phones of four senior politicians that appeared in a news magazine.

The Left parties, the BJP and the Janata Dal (United) have termed phone tapping “unethical, unconstitutional and shameful act” that “subverts the democratic system and breeds an atmosphere of illegality in the higher echelons of the government.”

The CPI (M) was sterner in its criticism, saying such acts “cannot be tolerated.” The party demanded that the government own up responsibility and act against those who had ordered the surveillance.

The CPI said the government was misusing its power to tap the conversations of political leaders to prolong its survival.

The BJP said the government was resorting to such “despotic actions” as it failed on all fronts. Party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy demanded a “clear statement” from the Prime Minister in Parliament. The Janata Dal (United) demanded a thorough probe.

Seeking to distance the party from yet another controversy that has all the ingredients to whip up turmoil in Parliament, Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh said on Saturday that he did not believe the charge that the Centre was resorting to tapping the phones of political leaders as the “Manmohan Singh government cannot do such an unethical and illegal thing.”

Talking to journalists informally at a function at Panchkula near Chandigarh, Mr. Singh, however, said that as the story had come out in a news magazine, the government “should have it inquired into…” Listening to a phone conversation unless it was a threat to national security was “illegal” as per the Indian Telegraph Act, he said.

PTI reports from Patna:

RJD chief Lalu Prasad has condemned the tapping of phones as “illegal and undemocratic.”

He, however, said Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should not be worried much about the tapping of his phone if he had not done anything wrong.

The RJD leader said he spoke to the Chief Minister and advised him not to be worried.

“Normally, people are worried about a matter in case of wrongdoing,” he said, adding he was not bothered at all if his phones were tapped as “I have nothing to hide.”

“All these phone tapping charges are aimed at gaining cheap popularity,” he added.

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