Facing Congress allegations that the recent Delhi Police enquiries at the residence of its leader Rahul Gandhi were a form of “political espionage”, the government Monday defended itself in the Parliament and outside, calling the controversy “not even a molehill”.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told The Indian Express that the Congress vice-president had never been profiled by the Special Branch of Delhi Police in the past, and this was the first time such an exercise had been conducted for him. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, meanwhile, said in the Rajya Sabha that the Congress was making a “mountain out of what is not even a molehill” as information collection was a part of “transparent security profiling” used on 526 VIPs, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi as well as former prime ministers.
Rijiju said that of the 526 people whose data was presently available with the police since the practice of keeping a list of “important people” was started in 1987, 384 were political personalities while 142 were from other fields.
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“The Special Branch of the Delhi Police keeps on updating the list of important people, including political personalities. I have been informed that Rahul Gandhi was never profiled under this proforma and his name was not there on the list available with the police. That is why, this time it was done. Congress is unnecessarily making an issue out of it,” he said.
Rijiju said that following the Congress’s claims last week, he immediately called up Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi and sought details.
“The details are willingly given by people approached by the Special Branch. How would we know if someone has a mole? The details are filled in by these people willingly. The Special Branch does its own risk analysis and calculations and includes people in the list accordingly. Since January 1, 2014 to March 15 this year, the details of 91 people were updated or added to the list. From 2004 till now, 166 names were updated,” Rijiju said.
Since Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh is on an official tour to Japan, Jaitley responded to the Opposition’s charges in both Houses.
Jaitley said the police has been collecting such information since 1987 on VIPs operating out of Lutyens’ Delhi through a proforma document as part of security profiling. The proforma, which was revised in 1999, has been used to profile former prime ministers H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Jaitley said, adding that it was also used to profile Sonia in 2004, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Pranab Mukherjee was profiled in 2001, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012, while BJP leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj, Ahmed Patel of the Congress, CPM’s Sitaram Yechury and JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav were also profiled, he said.
He said that “526 persons have been profiled using the present form” and added that this was part of “transparent security profiling and not associated with any kind of snooping or spying”.
“It is not that it has been started in the last eight months,” he said and proposed to sit with Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad to go through the 526 forms filled during the previous UPA rule.
On the proforma seeking information on the shoe size, colour of eyes and other such information, Jaitley said Rajiv Gandhi was identified by his shoes after his assassination. He added that security needs and profiling should be left to security experts and “we should not attempt to become one”.
A list of three dozen dignitaries, including politicians, was prepared by the Delhi Police in February this year. The list was sent to all concerned area officers of the Special Branch unit so they could carry out a detailed profiling of the listed dignitaries, a process which police called routine.
According to sources, a ‘verification drive’ of these three dozen dignitaries was carried out by the area officers as soon as the list was dispatched. The list reportedly included Rahul as well as many BJP politicians. According to sources, the list was prepared keeping in mind their position in the current political environment. Sources said Rahul’s name was on the list since he is being considered for the post of Congress president.
Bassi said that the Delhi Police is a big organisation and several activities take place which are routine and may not come to his direct notice.
He said that the said case was wrongly being called ‘snooping’, and is actually a regular routine exercise. “This matter came to my notice when it became controversial. A proforma had been made for the said verification and I don’t blame my predecessors for not knowing that such proformas existed. There is nothing sinister in taking such details and too much should not be read into it,” he said.