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Maharashtra orders probe into ‘phone tapping’

“They had tapped phones of senior NCP and Congress leaders through government mechanism ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls held last year,” Mr. Deshmukh said.

“They had tapped phones of senior NCP and Congress leaders through government mechanism ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls held last year,” Mr. Deshmukh said.  

The Maharashtra Home Minister has alleged that the Devendra Fadnavis led govt. had sent officials to Israel and bought software to “intercept” phones of Congress and NCP leaders.

Maharahstra’s ruling coalition of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Congress, have seized on allegations of phone tapping of senior party leaders by the previous government led by the BJP. However, former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has denied the allegations.

The NCP has also alleged that the Koregaon-Bhima riot in Pune in 2018 was orchestrated in a bid to frame Dalit and Ambedkarite activists.

Accusing the previous BJP-led government in Maharashtra of tapping phones of senior NCP and Congress leaders during the 2019 Lok Sabha and Assembly polls, State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Friday said he had ordered a probe into the matter.

“The previous BJP-led government had tapped phones of senior NCP and Congress leaders through government mechanism ahead of the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls held last year,” Mr Deshmukh said on Friday while announcing the probe. 

Pegasus spyware

“We have also ordered a probe into allegations that spyware Pegasus was used to snoop on officials and activists during the previous government’s rule. We will check which officers travelled to Israel during the period to allegedly procure this malware,” Mr. Deshmukh said.

A week ago, senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh had appealed to the State government to probe the involvement of an Israel-based company in alleged snooping on certain leaders.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Deshmukh and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar held a review meeting with State’s senior police officials on the arrest of alleged ‘urban naxals’ in the Koregaon-Bhima case after NCP chief Sharad Pawar wrote a letter questioning the probe so far.

NCP leader and Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad said the phone tapping episode shows the perverted mentality of the BJP. “I have also been questioning the arrests in Koregaon-Bhima riot in the State Assembly. It looked staged even then as only Dalit and Ambedkarite workers were targeted by probe agencies,” he said.

Speaking on the allegations, the Sena’s MP in the Rajya Sabha, Sanjay Raut, said, claimed that a BJP leader had informed him that his phone was being tapped by the previous Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra. “A BJP leader told me that my phone is being tapped in the previous government and I said I welcome it. I am a disciple of Balasaheb Thackeray. Whatever I do, I do it openly.” 

Congress leader and Public Works Department (PWD) minister Ashok Chavan said the BJP can stoop to any level to win power. “The only agenda of the BJP is to have uninterrupted power. BJP’s functioning in different States has shown that and therefore, the allegations cannot be discarded. A high-level probe monitored by Chief Minister has to be undertaken,” he said.

Fadnavis denial

Former chief minister and Leader of Opposition Fadnavis has denied the allegations. “Phone-tapping is not the culture of Maharashtra. My government had not given any such orders,” he said.

“The State government is free to probe the allegations with the help of any machinery. People of Maharashtra know the truth. A Shiv Sena leader was the Minister of State for Home during my tenure. I have a request — the government should immediately conduct an inquiry and make the report public. If it wants to go to Israel for the probe, it should do that,” he said.

Responding to Mr Fadnavis, Sena MLA Deepak Kesarkar, who was the Minister of State (Home) in the previous BJP-Sena government said the authority of an MoS is limited and he had no knowledge of such snooping.

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Printable version | Feb 20, 2020 7:16:18 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/anil-deshmukh-levels-phone-tapping-charges-against-previous-maharashtra-govt/article30644139.ece

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