A row erupted Monday evening after senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot said Gujarat police and local Intelligence Bureau sleuths took away CCTV footage from a hotel in Ahmedabad where he stayed and had meetings with Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor who, earlier in the day, joined the Congress.
Gehlot, AICC general secretary in charge of Gujarat and former Rajasthan Chief Minister, told The Indian Express that hotel authorities told him that “IB and police people inquired who all came… to meet whom. Then they took away CCTV footage and gave it to the media… Rahul Gandhi se mile, kis se mile, kya hua… inko kya matlab hai. Kaun kis se mila inko kya matlab hai. Koi absconder hai kya? (Whether someone met Rahul Gandhi or others, what happened, how is that any of their concern. Is anyone an absconder?)”.
The Ummed Hotel did not deny sharing the CCTV footage. When contacted, Vikram Singh Shekhawat, chief security officer of the hotel, said “no room was searched by police but there were many police and IB officials deployed in the hotel throughout the day due to VVIP visits. The police did ask for CCTV footage and, after consulting our top management, we provided it to them. This was all for security reasons.”
Gehlot spoke out after some TV channels aired visuals which purportedly showed Hardik Patel entering a hotel elevator. There was speculation that he had a secret meeting with Rahul Gandhi.
Gehlot said Patel and Thakor had come to meet him separately at night. He said he was told by hotel authorities that police and IB personnel told them they would inspect the rooms. “They wanted to know who stayed in which room. Whether Hardik stayed… in which room Ashok Gehlot stayed. It is the first time I have seen people stooping to this level,” he said.
Asked how did he get to know about what police and IB did, he said: “Hotelwale bataye humko (hotel staff told me). They told us that IB people have taken away footage. And it was shown on TV. People are seen coming and going, Hardik Patel coming into the hotel. For Jay Shah, they will argue about privacy in court… and here they are giving footage to the media.”
“I am asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is behind all this… How did the footage come in the media… because the local IB or police, they will not do anything without a signal from the BJP government, its leaders, Chief Minister, Prime Minister or PMO… And why did they seek the footage? Are Alpesh, Hardik and Jignesh Mewani absconders,” Gehlot said.
In a series of tweets, Gehlot said: “I met Hardik n Jignesh in Ummed Hotel. IB, Police are chckng hotel rooms. @PMOIndia @narendramodi ji Wat is happening in Gandhiji’s Gujarat? The rooms which hv been booked in my name are being checked. We are openly saying, we have met them n will keep meeting them in future too.”
“When they met BJP leaders, then their offices were not checked. Why it is being done now? Are #HardikPatel and #JigneshMevani criminals or absconders? If that is so, BJP must clear its stand. Why CCTV footage was taken by IB n police from Hotel? Is the right to privacy, sole proprietorship of #JayAmitShah? I condemn all this surveillance being done on BJP’s orders,” he tweeted.
Gujarat Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja and Ahmedabad Police Commissioner A S K Singh did not respond to allegations levelled by Gehlot.