New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday accused the Congress of going back to the "Emergency" days after a report alleged that telephones of four top political leaders had been tapped.
"This is completely undemocratic. Nothing justifies it. It indicates the Congress is getting back to Emergency days mindset," BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman told IANS. She was referring to the Emergency rule of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1975-77 when opposition leaders were jailed and democratic freedoms curbed.
Sitharaman reacted to a report in newsmagazine Outlook that said that the government was tapping the telephones of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Prakash Karat and Congress leader Digvijay Singh.
The government has not commented on the report.
Sitharaman said the BJP planned to raise the issue when parliament meets Monday.
A guarded Congress said it was for the government to say whether phones were tapped or not and if it was legal.
"Nobody can justify illegal phone tapping but in this case it is for the for the government to throw light on whether phones were tapped," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.
Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a key member of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, was guarded in its response.
"It (phone tapping) is not confirmed yet. Wait for some concrete evidence," NCP leader Tariq Anwar said.
In its reaction, The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has asked the government to admit tapping the telephones of four top political leaders and sought action against those who ordered the alleged surveillance.
"The government must own up responsibility in the matter and take action against those who ordered the surveillance. Protecting the covert activities of the intelligence and security agencies cannot be made the pretext for a cover-up," the CPI-M said in a statement.
"The report shows that the government is using the intelligence and security agencies to serve its political purpose to spy upon opposition leaders and to keep track of even its own allies and party leaders," it said.
The CPI-M said acts like phone interception cannot be tolerated as they "subvert the democratic system and breed an atmosphere of illegality in the higher echelons of the government".
The party said the government should place in parliament a clear set of guidelines prohibiting the use of intelligence and security agencies in any form of surveillance of political leaders.
"Instructions on tapping of phones and surveillance on grounds of national security or investigation of criminal activity must be codified. The intelligence and security agencies must be subject to parliamentary oversight," it said.
The CPI-M had withdrawn its legislative support to the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime in 2009 over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal.
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