State BJP, Cong in slugfest over Rajasthan phone tapping case

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Jaipur, Mar 26 (PTI) Ahead of the assembly bypolls on three seats in Rajasthan next month, the row over the alleged phone tapping of political opponents by the Ashok Gehlot government revived once again on Friday after an FIR was lodged by the Delhi Police based on the complaint of Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat.

While state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra said the Union minister should come to Rajasthan to provide voice samples for testing, Leader of Opposition Gulabchand Kataria said the government should first conduct voice tests of its own MLAs who were mentioned in the FIR registered by the state police.

The Delhi Police has registered an FIR in connection with the alleged phone tapping case based on a complaint filed by Shekhawat, officials said on Friday.

The complaint by Shekhawat was filed at the Tughlaq Road police station last week against Gehlot's OSD Lokesh Sharma and others for alleged 'commission of offences of criminal conspiracy and unlawfully intercepting telegraphic signals (telephonic conversation)', they said. The phone tapping controversy erupted in July last year in Rajasthan during a political crisis due to the rebellion of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot and 18 other Congress MLAs against Gehlot's leadership following which audio clips purportedly having telephonic conversation between Shekhawat and Congress leaders had surfaced.

Congress leaders belonging to Gehlot's camp had then alleged that the BJP leaders were involved in horse trading to topple the state government.

Shekhawat is a BJP MP from Rajasthan's Jodhpur.

Reacting to reports of the FIR, Dotasra in a tweet said the union minister should come to Rajasthan and provide his voice sample for testing.

He said 'the minister should stop the drama of the fake FIR'.

In a video statement, Kataria hit back, saying if there is a delay on the part of Shekhawat with regards to voice testing, then the government should get the voice tests done of two MLAs -- Bhanwarlal Sharma and Vishvendra Singh -- who were also named in the FIRs lodged by the special operations group of Rajasthan police.

When the issue was raised in the recently concluded assembly session, parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal had denied the charges that phones of any public representative were tapped.

On BJP's allegations that the voice clips were circulated by Gehlot's OSD Lokesh Sharma, the minister had admitted that Sharma had received the audio clips on WhatsApp and had forwarded them. Referring to that reply, Kataria on Friday asked from where did Sharma get those audio clips. He said 'if someone forwards something wrong in a group, then he is equally a culprit and has to face legal action.' 'The phone tapping was done in violation of law and this government will fall because of this,' he said. PTI SDA TDS TDS