The alleged tapping of senior politicians’ phone conversations by intelligence officers looks set to supplant controversies relating to the Indian Premier League (IPL) on the political centrestage and stall Parliamentary proceedings on Monday.
The Opposition has demanded a probe by a joint parliamentary committee. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani called for new legislation to protect the privacy of citizens, as the party demanded the suspension of question hour in both Houses to discuss the alleged phone taps.
“What is really required in this context is to set up a parliamentary committee on the lines of the Birkett committee in Britain to examine all aspects of the problem..,” Advani said.
Probe demands: BJP leader L.K. Advani has sought the formation of a parliamentary committee to look into the phone tapping. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
A report in ‘Outlook’ magazine said intelligence officers had been tapping the phones of politicians including agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, ruling Congress party general secretary Digvijay Singh, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
“We are not living in a military regime. The Prime Minister owes an explanation to Parliament and the people ” said Communist Party of India’s national secretary D. Raja.
The report has provided additional ammunition to the Opposition to attack a government that already been grappling with allegations that more members of the Cabinet could be involved in wrongdoing related to IPL, after Shashi Tharoor was forced to resign as minister of state for external affairs over his links to the new Kochi team and “sweat equity” in its ownership given to a female friend.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance on Tuesday faces a cut motion on the finance Bill that 13 Leftist and Centrist opposition parties have threatened to force the rollback of fuel and fertilizer price increases. BJP has announced its support for the motion.
Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari declined to comment on the alleged phone taps reported by ‘Outlook’.
“While we have great respect for the publication, it has been our policy not to respond to unverified reportage,” said Tewari.