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Gadkari Bugging Scandal: Is "Saheb"Listening? 

By Shehzad Poonawalla

29 July, 2014

There is certainly more than what meets the eye in the "bugging controversy" that has hit the Narendra Modi government recently. ?Broken first on Newsx and its sister publication The Sunday Guardian (co-incidentally a paper launched by BJP leader and former veteran journalist MJ Akbar where he continues to be involved) news reports claimed that senior minister Nitin Gadkari's official residence in Delhi at  13 Teen Murti Lane  was planted with high-powered listening devices, obviously in an attempt to eve's drop on conversations that the heavyweight minister was having. While details remain sketchy, it has further emerged that a total of six devices were recovered , including one from the minister's bedroom, in the de-bugging exercise that was done sometime ago. 
While the Bharatiya Janta Party and the government remains tight-lipped on the issue, Nitin Gadkari's denial of the reports being 'highly speculative' was hardly convincing leave alone categorical. The fact that the de-bugging exercise was reportedly carried out by a private firm and not the national intelligence agencies itself is quite a revealing statement on its own! Surely, the competence of agencies like the Intelligence Bureau in carrying out de-bugging exercises  and their locus standi ?in ensuring that ministers of the central government aren't subjected to such scandals that potentially compromise national security and national interest, cannot be understated! 

Now informed, educated analysis seems to indicate that the devices used were of a foreign origin. Whether this element of 'foreign intervention' was restricted to providing technology and expertise or whether it was a full-fledged spying operation, sponsored by a foreign government to achieve their own objectives, remains to be answered. Just recently, disclosures by Edward Snowden revealed that the USA's National Security Agency (NSA) had BJP on its spy-radar!  

Now, BJP's fringe element represented by Dr. Subramanian Swamy has given a rather pedestrian spin that the entire affair was a UPA-USA joint effort and that the previous government was in the know of Nitin Gadkari's house being bugged! Swamy alleges that the NSA sought a court order in 2010 to snoop on the BJP and the UPA acceded to it! He of course doesn't tell us that a federal district US court held it to be unconstitutional in December 2013 so his theory would imply that the Indian government went along with an activity that had no legal sanction in the US itself and had been injuncted by a US court! Truly genius!  The argument cuts little ice particularly due the big loopholes it leaves open in this fictional concoction by his hyper-active imagination. Dr. Swamy who admits that not just Gadkari but other senior leaders of the BJP were also being snooped upon, fails to answer why the current BJP government was being so generous to an out-of-power, scheming bunch of Congress party leaders when their involvement in illegally spying upon a former BJP president is so evident! Ironically, while the BJP and the current dispensation at the centre remains mute, leaders of the Congress party including the former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, terming the affair as 'ominous' have asked for the central government to make initiate a probe and make a full disclosure before Parliament! The reluctance of the BJP to pay heed to Dr.Swamy's theories ?is not only reflective of the diminishing seriousness he is treated with but also raises an eye of suspicion on the central government itself!

While the 'foreign' angle cannot be ruled out nobody can prevent the 'domestic ' angles from gaining traction either. It is a fact that Narendra Modi and his lieutenant Amit Shah, continue to be in the midst of a 'snoopgate' scandal where Amit Shah was heard tracking the movements of a young woman for his 'saheb' including voyeuristic details about her personal life! In the past, Modi has been known to run Gujarat with an iron-fist. Sworn affidavits of top intelligence/ police officers reveal that Haren Pandya, who had a fall-out with the chief minister, had his phone tapped.(Read the Indian Express story:  Modi has a snooping habit, I was told to tap Vaghela: Sreekumar Link  http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/modi-has-a-snooping-habit-i-was-told-to-tap-vaghela-sreekumar/1197162/

Eventually Haren Pandya was assassinated! Indeed, the fact that Gujarat under Modi was run like a police-state where journalists at the slightest ?provocation were charged with sedition and where dissent, within his own party- right from. Gowardhan Zadaphia to Keshubhai Patel or in the opposition were systematically obliterated, has been well documented. A report in the webportal  Firstpost.in  ( Link:  http://www.firstpost.com/politics/with-new-reports-of-snooping-will-bjp-still-defend-amit-shah-1237423.html  ) says  phone tapping has been rampant in Gujarat, with a DGP discovering this year that as many as 93,000 mobile phones' call data records had been obtained without his knowledge since December 2012 . The web publisher further reports A report in The Hindustan Times says agencies such as the Gujarat Police, the IB, the Anti-Terror Squad and the Crime Branch are all routinely conduct illegal surveillance, either for investigations or at the instance of their political bosses. The extent of snooping is so pervasive that Gujarat's director general of police Amitabh Pathak (now deceased) was shocked to learn in May that his own police officials had obtained call detail records of as many as 93,000 mobile phone numbers without his knowledge since December 2012 .  Firstpost.in  then refers to a report in the TOI This report in the Times of India published in 2005 quotes BJP MLA Gordhan Zadaphia complaining about the Modi government engaging in illegal tapping of phones of MLAs and MPs."

What has also been tracked by this author are the undeniable parallels between Germany of the 1930s under Hitler and his style of leadership and that of Mr.Modi's which can be read here ( Hitler "Modi"fied http://www.countercurrents.org/poonawalla120514.htm  ) That Hitler used an elaborate mechanism of the Gestapo, to track and terrorise, both his opponents and colleagues, to keep them under check will not come as much of a surprise. Whether this facet of Hitler opens up yet another avenue for drawing parallels with the notorious 'Gujarat Model' is something best left to the wisdom of the readers! 

Today, the two principal architects of the Gujarat Model? - Amit Shah and his 'Saheb' have made their way to Delhi. The Modi stamp on the government and the party is not unmissable. That every appointment to be made by ministers as part of their personal staff and logs of who meets the ministers are reportedly  being scanned by the PMO give an impression of a stifled political culture that has taken over South Bloc since the 16th of May 2014. The fact that Nitin Gadkari, who is known for his extremely close ties to the RSS, shared a frosty relationship with Modi in his stint as party president is not hidden from anybody. One of Mr.Gadkari's confidante tells this author that the situation is so dire that Gadkari, under duress,  has stopped meeting certain individuals at his residence and office all together, fearing the response it may generate in the PMO to which the IB,RAW,NSA and other intelligence paraphanelia report! These days, if the confidante is to be believed, Gadkari sends his car half-way to pick up guests who may be on the PMO radar and then, much like lovers having an affair, meetings take place clandestinely at some undescript locations. Such lack of trust and confidence amongst ministers that at such an early stage in the government cannot be a sign of "Ache Din" surely! 

Indeed, it is necessary that the Modi led government come clean on this entire issue. At the very least this could well be an assault on the sovereignty of India which a party that claims to have such high 'nationalistic' zeal can ill afford to be silent on. On the other hand, this could well be India's 'Watergate Scandal' with a slight twist - where a Nixon equivalent, who is the executive head of what is India's variant of the Republican party- the BJP was perhaps using illegal means to stifle political competition in his own ranks, in an attempt to vest absolute control in himself. Not to imply, even for a moment that leaders of the opposition should take his benefaction for granted for too long! Only an independent enquiry, one that BJP seems to be avoiding like the plague at the moment, can reveal the timing, the antagonists  and their motives behind , what is potentially, India's biggest spy scandal! Till then, all we can hope for, is that 'Saheb' isn't listening! 

Shehzad Poonawalla is a 1st generation, self-made, 26 year old, lawyer-activist engaged in politics and civil rights movement.
Tweet @Shehzad_Ind
Email: [email protected]




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