Spirit of inquiryhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/spirit-of-inquiry/

Spirit of inquiry

Centre’s move on ‘Snoopgate’ must not be,or be seen to be,an extension of Congress vs Modi.

Centre’s move on ‘Snoopgate’ must not be,or be seen to be,an extension of Congress vs Modi.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi will breathe easier with the collapse in an Ahmedabad court of criminal charges against him for his role in the communal riots of 2002. The court has rejected Zakia Jafri’s petition against the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team’s closure report,confirming its conclusions and exonerating Modi legally. But there is still some way to go before Modi can absolve himself of political responsibility for the violence that happened on his watch. His perceived inaction during the riots has extracted political costs — his detractors view him exclusively through the prism of secularism,and minorities still cannot bring themselves to trust him. Modi will have to work harder to dispel those suspicions.

The recent “Snoopgate” allegations would appear to add to the anxieties about the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and the government he heads. An illegal and secret surveillance of a young woman was allegedly carried out by the state,ostensibly at Modi’s behest,and these charges are yet to be addressed by Modi or the Gujarat government. The BJP’s explanations have been weak,at best. It produced a letter to suggest that the snooping had been conducted at the request of her father,for her own security,while failing to address allegations that her privacy was wrongfully invaded and official resources diverted to stalk a woman,without procedure or justification. Due process was allegedly disregarded by Modi and his trusted minister,Amit Shah,and neither has offered a word of explanation.

Yet,the Centre’s move to set up its own commission to inquire into the allegations against the Modi government invites suspicions of political motivation and timing. The move is ostensibly prompted by revelations in the public domain which suggest that the apparently unauthorised physical and electronic trailing extended beyond Gujarat into other states. Given that the Gujarat government has already set up an inquiry commission into the matter,the Centre could have waited for its report. By setting up a parallel probe,one that may override or clash with that of the state,in the run-up to a general election,the Centre has laid itself open to questions about its own conspicuous zeal in pursuing the matter. In the end,there will be a systemic price to pay if the Centre allows this matter to become,or to look like,the political-electoral confrontation between the Congress and BJP by other means.