Jaipur: Mounting an attack on Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, the BJP on Monday demanded his resignation after the state government confirmed that phone tapping did take place during the political crisis last year.
The BJP, the main opposition party in the state demanded a CBI inquiry into the phone tapping issue.
The government confirmation about phone tapping came in much delayed reply to a question asked during the assembly session in August last year. The government in its reply posted on the Rajasthan assembly website said that phones were tapped after taking permission from the appropriate authorities.
The government has not clarified whose phones were put under surveillance. It merely said that all cases of phone tapping till November 2020 have been reviewed at the chief secretary level.
Rajasthan BJP president Satish Poonia said the government has accepted that phone tapping was done. The reply given by the government in the assembly is acceptance of the fact that phones were tapped.
He said the chief minister, the government and officials had all denied interception of calls when this issue came up last year. The chief minister had stated in the assembly that Rajasthan does not have such a tradition of phone tapping.
“The chief minister lied about this in the assembly, the facts were twisted… the chief minister is guilty, he should resign on moral grounds. The CM is also the home minister. He should get a CBI inquiry done in the matter,” said Poonia.
Poonia also hit out at Congress government for the rising crimes against women. He said of the total 6.14 lakh cases are registered in the state, over 80,000 pertain to crimes against women and over 12,000 relate to rapes and gang rapes.
Poonia said the Congress had assured safety to women in its manifesto but has failed to keep its promise and in this scenario the chief minister has no moral right to continue in his post.
The question about phone tapping had been asked by BJP MLA Kalicharan Saraf in August last year to which the home department gave a reply. The reply was posted in the assembly website but was not given in writing to the MLA.
Since the question was asked in August last year, it is being viewed in context of the rebellion led by former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot in July last year.
After Pilot’s rebellion against the state leadership, the Congress alleged that the BJP was helping Pilot and his loyalist MLAs to unseat Gehlot.
While Pilot and his MLAs camped in a hotel in near Manesar, the Congress MLAs were shifted to a hotel in Jaisalmer. The Gehlot camp MLAs had released audio clips of an alleged conversation between union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and MLAs Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh, both from the Pilot camp.
The conversation in the audio clips revolved around toppling the Congress government and exchange of money. However, no voice test of the leaders was done.
The Pilot camp had accused the Gehlot government of tapping phones of soe MLAs staying in Jaisalmer but the government had at the time denied that it was intercepting calls of MLAs.
Saraf told media that he had asked the question in August last year but I have not received any written reply till date. I can comment only when I get a written reply from the government.
Saraf’s question was: “Is it correct that cases of phone tapping have come up in the past few days? If yes, under what law and on whose orders? Place the entire details on the table of the house.”
In its reply, the government said, “In the interest of public safety or public order, telephone calls are intercepted after approval by the competent officer under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and section 419(A) of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2007 and section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
Rajasthan police have carried out phone tapping under these provisions after obtaining permission from the competent authority. Phones put under surveillance are reviewed by a committee headed by the chief secretary. Till now, review of the cases of phone surveillance and phone tapping till November has been done.”