Phone-tapping claim hits UPA

 The Congress, however, downplayed the issue and said it is for the government to explain but the BJP said it would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday.

The Congress maintained that illegal phone-tapping was unjustified. “Illegal phone-tapping is unjustified but in this case, it is for the government to explain whether phone-tapping was done or not or whether it was legal or not,” party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said.

The Congress leader’s remark comes in the wake of reports in the latest issue of the ‘Outlook’ magazine alleging that government agencies have been tapping phones of important politicians and ministers since 2006.

Reacting to it, the BJP said it will raise the issue in Parliament. “If the government is tapping the phones of terrorists, or tax evaders or secessionists, then it is understandable as national interest and national security are involved. But tapping phones of politicians and ministers is condemnable,” BJP Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha S S Ahluwalia said.

 According to the report, the phones of some prominent political leaders, including Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Congress leader Digvijay Singh have been tapped. The phones of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat have also been tapped by the National Technical Research Organisation, an intelligence agency created in the aftermath of the Kargil war to cover all aspects of technical intelligence gathering.

 While the phones of Singh and Kumar were tapped in 2007 and that of Karat in 2008 at the height of his opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal leading to the no-confidence motion against the government, the telephone of Pawar was tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the scandal in the IPL.

“Discussions between the minister and IPL commissioner Lalit Modi were tapped and taped last fortnight in the wake of the scandal in the cricket league. The recorded conversations allegedly threw up inside details of the deals that were stuck in the bidding process for the various teams,” the magazine said.

Magazine’s editor Vinod Mehta said while he appreciated concerns of national security, he wondered why telephone tapping was being resorted to against leaders for “political opportunism”.

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