The Union Home Ministry, Monday, rejected demands for a probe into reports about bugging devices found in Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in Delhi.
“Mr. Gadkari has himself called it speculation. If so, how can we intervene?,” said Kiren Rijiju Minister of State for Home.
Parties like the Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress party had demanded that the government launch a probe in to the matter even as Gadkari himself dismissed reports about bugging devices found in his bungalow in Lutyen’s Delhi.
The controversy erupted after a media report claimed that powerful listening devices were found in the bedroom of 11 Teen Murti Lane residence of Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways.
An initial probe suggests the possibility of the bugs having been “planted by a foreign agency” as only western intelligence agencies like the CIA and NSA use such sophisticated devices.
Gadkari was quick to negate the report. “Reports in a section of the media about listening devices having been found at my New Delhi residence are highly speculative,” tweeted Gadkari.
The former president of the BJP and current Lok Sabha MP from Nagpur, Gadkari is a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s informal core group besides being close to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The BJP also played down the matter with party leaders refusing to take a position on the matter.
However, party leader Subramanian Swamy has demanded that the government make an official statement on the issue while adding, “My own investigations and my sources reveal that this may happen not later than October last year. The planting of the device and that means at that time, when the UPA was in power, the NSA has specifically targeted the BJP and Gadkari was a very important person. He had the confidence of the RSS.”
The Opposition Congress has latched on to the issue with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding an investigation into the report and asked government to explain the issue in Parliament.
“If ministers’ houses are bugged, then it is not a good omen. It should be investigated. How can it happen? It should be explained by the government in the House,” he told at an Iftar function hosted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala went a step ahead and said the incident reflected a certain lack of faith among ministerial colleagues and an absence of mutual trust.
His party colleague Manish Tewari questioned as to how the information appeared in the public space and said that if an inquiry has been ordered, full facts of it should be laid on the floor of Parliament.
“If indeed this story is true, though as you point out that the minister in question has denied it, it obviously lends itself to the question as to how it then appears in the public space.”
While the government appears not keen to pursue the matter, the issue raises some serious questions, given earlier revelations that the BJP was one of the six global political parties that were spied on by the US’ National Security Agency.
The previous Manmohan Singh government had faced a similar situation in 2010 after his the then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, now the President, wrote to the PM about the possibility of an attempt to implant electronic listening devices in his office. The whole issue was dubbed by the BJP as a result of the rivalry between two ministers.