Rajasthan minister rejects phone tapping claims, says CM will resign if allegations proven right

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Jaipur, Mar 17 (PTI) The Rajasthan government informed the state assembly on Wednesday that it did not tap phones of any legislator during last year's political crisis.

Rejecting the BJP's allegations on phone tapping, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shanti Dhariwal said the saffron party was making an issue in order to protect Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

He said the chief minister would offer his resignation if these allegations were proved right.

'Not only the chief minister, all of us will resign,' Dhariwal added.

However, the BJP demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter and created a ruckus in the assembly which led to adjournment of the House twice.

The controversy around phone tapping erupted in July last year during the political crisis that was caused due to the rebellion of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs against Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's leadership.

On the basis of three audio clips in which Shekhawat and Congress leaders could be heard talking about a conspiracy to topple Gehlot's government, Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi had registered FIRs with the Special Operations Group (SOG) and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB).

Dhariwal said after the FIRs were registered, SOG officers had gone to the residence and office of the minister in Delhi to collect Shekhawat's voice sample but failed to get the same.

He said BJP leaders should tell Shekhawat that their party was facing embarrassment because of him and hence, he should take the voice test.

On the allegations by the BJP that the voice clips were prepared and circulated by Lokesh Sharma, the OSD to the chief minister, Dhariwal said the audio clips were received on WhatsApp.

He stressed that forwarding an audio clip on WhatsApp was not a crime.

Dhariwal apprised the House that the SOG last year intercepted phones of two persons -- Ashok Singh and Bharat Malani -- with permission from the Home Department, after receiving information about illegal arms smuggling and movement of explosives.

He said none of them was a politician but during the interception, conspiracy to depose the Gehlot government was exposed and that the SOG inspector lodged an FIR in the matter.

The minister said the government did not order any MLA's, MP's or an elected representative's phone-tapping.

Dhariwal reminisced that during the 90s, when efforts were being made to topple Bhairon Singh Shekhawat-led BJP government in the state, it was Gehlot, who met then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao and then Rajasthan governor Baliram Bhagat to speak against it.

Dhariwal concluded his reply by taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which invited a sharp reaction from the BJP members who stormed to the well of the House and created a ruckus in the assembly.

Speaker CP Joshi concluded the debate and adjourned the House for half an hour.

The House was adjourned for the second time for another 30 minutes.

Prior to the minister's reply, Leader of Opposition Gulab Chand Kataria asked if the phones were not tapped, then why was the FIR lodged.

He said if the cases lodged were true, then the government should take action against the accused.

When the House reassembled, the speaker said it was everyone's responsibility to respect the president, vice president, prime minister, chief minister and other leaders in a parliamentary democracy.

Saying that no such comment which may weaken the parliamentary democracy should be made, the speaker directed to expunge the comments of Dhariwal against the prime minister.

Earlier in the day, the suspension of BJP MLA Madan Dilawar was revoked after the leader of opposition tendered an apology for his conduct.

Dilawar was suspended for seven days for his 'unruly behaviour' in the House on Tuesday. PTI SDA MGA SNE