BJP: Congress stooping to new lows

The Congress on Sunday demanded an inquiry by a retired or serving judge of the Supreme Court into the alleged violation of the right to privacy of a woman architect who, it said, was put under surveillance by the former Gujarat Home Minister, Amit Shah, at the instance of his “Saheb,” since identified by BJP president Rajnath Singh as Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

The party brought to the fore four senior woman leaders — Union Ministers Girija Vyas, Jayanthi Natarajan and Rita Bahuguna Joshi and Mahila Congress president Shobha Ahuja — to address a press conference in which they urged Mr. Modi to come clean on the issue.

In a statement, the Congress said: “Audio tapes released by independent news portals, Gulail and Cobrapost, on November 15, 2013 reveal illegal surveillance of a young architect girl from Gujarat in August-September 2009 by three wings of the Gujarat Police — the State Intelligence Bureau, the Crime Branch and the Anti- Terrorism Squad — at the instance of the then Home Minister, Shri Amit Shah, for his “Saheb” Shri Narendra Modi.”

Ms. Natarajan said the party leaders gathered in a mood of “extreme discomfort, distress and anguish.” “What is being raised is a very serious issue. Madhuri [not her real name] was stalked, followed and spied upon by the entire squad of the ATS of the Gujarat Police, supervised by no less than Minister of State for Home Amit Shah.”

She said there was no doubt about the identity of “Saheb” referred to in the tapes since the BJP president himself said the woman’s father had requested the Chief Minister to look after his girl and take care of her. “Our question is even if a father asks, can the Chief Minister of a State use his MoS and ATS to watch over a young woman like this, impinging upon her right to freedom and privacy,” she asked.

Ms. Natarajan said Sections 28 to 32 of the Telegraph Act had been violated. The Gujarat Police had even put constables on flights to watch over this woman. “If all this is true, we feel horror, disgust and shame.”

Pointing out that such a misuse of the government machinery was also an offence under Section 166 of the Indian Penal Code, she asked: “Who should be punished for it.”

In the same vein, she offered an answer: “When BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s phone was tapped, the BJP did not allow Parliament to function for three days. A criminal case was registered and six were held. Should not such action be initiated now against those named?”

The BJP responded through a press conference by its spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi. She accused the Congress of stooping to new lows, turning a “case of legal protection” into one of “stalking.” “They are shameless enough to invade the privacy of a woman for a political vendetta.”

This episode, she said, illustrated how the UPA government, disturbed by the “unmatched popularity” of Mr. Modi, was trying hard to entrap him and was deploying every resource to tarnish his image. “It is very much in sync with the Congress character, and we are expecting more such serial attacks with increasing intensity.”

Ms. Lekhi said it was “as part of the duty of government” that the woman was provided protection at the request of her father because she was being harassed. “How the CDs that were part of official state property were made available to members of the Opposition is the first and foremost question that needs to be posed. They are not authorised as per the Telegraph Act.”

It was evident that neither the woman nor the members of her family filed any complaint and they seemed to be highly satisfied with the help extended by the State government. Even under the Telegraph Act, the complainant could only be someone whose privacy had been violated, said Ms. Lekhi, an advocate. “The police were protecting the girl while it is being given the twist of stalking without even having the complete understanding of the threat. Anyone who has the sensitivity and understanding of the women’s issues would know that anonymity and dignity are the essence of such handlings.”

Asserting that it was only due to “political motives” that the facts were twisted, Ms. Lekhi concluded: “The Congress is only trying to make political capital out of the private life of a girl who is leading a happy life.”