After two first information reports (FIRs) lodged on the basis of statements of the INC chief whip who, in turn, made allegations based on audiotapes that arrived from dubious phone numbers via WhatsApp, while Randeep Singh Surjewala charged the BJP of horse-trading to pull down the Ashok Gehlot government, Sambit Patra raised the issue of illegal phone-tapping.
The BJP today accused the INC of tapping the phones of its MLAs in Rajasthan — in the backdrop of Surjewala’s allegation that Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat was leading a BJP bid to woo MLAs close to Sachin Pilot to topple the Ashok Gehlot government.
The BJP demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the INC’s allegation in Rajasthan that it possessed audiotapes to prove that the party ruling at the Centre was trying to bring down the state government. “Is phone tapping not a legal issue? Were the standard procedures laid down followed for phone tapping? The chief minister should answer if the state machinery was misused and if there is a veiled emergency in the state,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said during a press conference.
Before Patra’s address to the press, INC spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had briefed the media yesterday, claiming his party was in the possession of tapes where BJP politicians like Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat could be heard “conspiring” with rebel MLAs from the Sachin Pilot camp to pull the state government down.
The BJP rubbished Surjewala’s allegation while Shekhawat asserted that the voice on the purported tapes was not his.
Patra alleged a conspiracy within the INC and said it was a bid by the party ruling Rajasthan to deflect the attention from its internal feud by pointing fingers at the BJP. “Our morality is crystal clear and we work as per the Constitution. Which is why we want a CBI probe,” Patra said.
“These are serious questions that we want to ask the Rajasthan Congress and Ashok Gehlot,” the BJP tweeted. It posted a series of questions on Twitter, which are as follows:
- Was phone taping done? The Congress govt in Rajasthan must answer.
- Is it not a sensitive and legal issue, if phone taping has been done?
- Assuming that you’ve taped phones, was the SOP followed? The people of Rajasthan want to know whether their privacy has been compromised.
- Did the Congress govt in Rajasthan use unconstitutional ways to save themselves when they found themselves cornered?
- Is (the) phone of any person who is related to politics is (sic) being tapped?” it asked.
Rajasthan police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) had yesterday registered two first information reports (FIRs) alleging a conspiracy to topple the INC government in the state.
The FIRs were a result of the INC’s chief whip Mahesh Joshi’s complaint in the night of 16 July citing three audiotapes purportedly of conversations detailing the plot.
Soon after the FIRs were registered — with several charges including “sedition” — the INC demanded the arrest of Union Water Minister Shekhawat, rebel INC MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and alleged power broker Sanjay Jain.
Further, the INC suspended Sharma and former tourism minister Vishvendra Singh from the party and sought an explanation about the tapes.
No media house has so far been able to verify the veracity of the tapes that were shared with journalists via WhatsApp from unverified numbers.
The FIR and the charges have surfaced amid a raging political battle in the state between chief minister Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot.