The purported tapes that reveal that Amit Shah,formerly minister of state for home in the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat and someone seen to be the chief minister’s close aide,had deployed the state’s security apparatus to track an individual,are disturbing. The BJP has rushed to Modi’s defence but given that the allegations are against the Gujarat government,the latter’s continuing silence invites questions. The responsibility to explain what happened and why is especially on the Modi government since the chief minister is also a PM candidate.
The defence put up by the BJP is unpersuasive. The party claims that the worried father of the target of the surveillance,an architect,had asked the Gujarat chief minister to take care of her. This doesn’t explain the aggressive surveillance allegedly mounted by the state government,apparently on Shah’s oral instructions,and the conversation between a minister and a senior police officer. For,according to the recordings,the woman was tailed as she visited shopping malls,ice-cream parlours,gyms,cinema halls,and hotels she was followed when she visited her ailing mother in an Ahmedabad hospital and not let out of sight even when she was on a flight. There is due process and clear guidelines on surveillance when it is deemed necessary by the state a 1997 judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of the Peoples Union of Civil Liberties vs Union of India ruled that phone tapping would have to be cleared by the home secretary,case by case,for a limited period of time,following which records should be destroyed.
The Congress,on the backfoot in the face of the growing Modi challenge ahead of 2014,has been quick to seize the matter. It has fielded its senior women leaders to target the Modi government for stalking and demanded a probe headed by an SC judge. While this display of uncharacteristically sharp reflexes is not surprising,given that the gloves are off in campaign season,the BJP can’t seek comfort in attributing motives to the Congress. A party that not so long ago vented such outrage at revelations that the phone of its senior leader had been tapped,must explain its underwhelming response to allegations that the state’s security apparatus was used as a private intelligence agency in a BJP-ruled state,a state it holds up as a model for the nation.