With the opposition terming the entire episode as 'snoopgate', Amit Shah was expected to raise his voice, but that has not happened. Instead, the BJP has fielded other leaders on his behalf - not even Narendra Modi has chosen to raise the snooping subject.
An alleged taped conversation between Shah and Gujarat IPS officer G L Singhal aired by news portals Cobrapost and Gulail purportedly featured Shah instructing Singhal to closely monitor the movements of the woman referred to in the report as Madhuri (not her real name).
Singhal was arrested by the CBI in February this year in connection with the 2004 Ishrat Jahan fake encounter and was recently released on bail. He was then posted as SP, ATS in Gujarat police. Shah was Minister of State for Home in Gujarat between 2003 and 2010. Shah was arrested in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in 2010 and is out on bail, in charge of the BJPs poll campaign in crucial Uttar Pradesh.
The two news portals, in a statement, claimed that Singhal cooperating with CBI after his release provided 267 audio recordings to the agency and this audio tape is part of this set.
The websites said at this point of time, Gulail and Cobrapost have no means to independently verify these charges.
The websites claimed that Modi had met this woman, then an architect from Bangalore whose parents were in Gujarat, in 2005 during a public function of Bhavnagar Municipal Corporation.
Hours after the tape was released, the womans father this evening said in a statement that his daughter had come to Ahmedabad when her mother was to undergo a surgery. She was required to commute at odd hours between the hospital and a nearby hotel which was a matter of concern to him.
He had, therefore, orally requested Modi, with whom we have long-standing family relations to take care of her. He was shocked that some vested interests were approaching the media in this regard, he said.
The news portals said that the tapes indicate that for at least over a month the Gujarat Police apparatus allegedly used its sweeping powers to rigorously monitor every private moment, every personal conversation and every daily movement of Madhuri.
Singhal has told the CBI that the surveillance was illegal and was carried out only on the oral instructions of Shah. The recordings reveal that Madhuri was tailed even as she visited shopping malls, restaurants, ice-cream parlours, gyms, cinema halls, hotels and airports.
She was followed even when she visited her ailing mother in a hospital in Ahmedabad. When she boarded a flight out of Ahmedabad, orders were issued to put cops on the flight so that she was not out of sight even when she was flying. Strict orders were given to closely observe and profile those who met her. Shah was particularly interested in knowing the men she was meeting and whether she was alone or with some man when she checked into a hotel in Ahmedabad. Her phones and that of her family and friends were tapped. Every bit of information was conveyed to Shah in real time, who in turn claimed to be relaying it to his `Saheb.
The tapes purportedly reveal that Shah also instructed Singhal to monitor another senior IAS officer, Pradeep Sharma, and tap his phones to find out if he was meeting with Madhuri. Sharma is advisor with the Ministry of Home Affairs at New Delhi.
The tapes purportedly show instances where Shah can be heard complaining that Singhals men were not doing a thorough job as Saheb was getting information about the movements of the woman from independent sources and his information network was at times more efficient than that of Shah. On August 9, 2009, Shah can be reportedly heard in a call to Singhal, I talked to Saheb and he got to know from someone that they did go outside twice. I think our men are not watching properly. They are still there. They went for shopping as well and also moved out along with that boy who came to see her.
Reacting to the tape, the Congress demanded that the CBI - which is probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter - should inquire into the allegations that Shah used the police machinery for illegal surveillance.
There should be an inquiry to establish the identity of the the saheb referred to in the tapes. The country wants to know the identity of the saheb. Also who is the saheba and why was she under surveillance. What is her relationship with the saheb This issue is also linked to the Ishrat Jahan encounter case therefore this should also be probed by the CBI, Congress spokesperson Meem Afzal said. He said Shah himself should reveal who the saheb was.
When reached for comments, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: I learn the father of the girl has circulated a note on the issue.Therefore, there is nothing for the party to respond to.