Leader of Opposition Mrs. Sushma Swaraj has described the alleged bugging of the offices of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his private secretaries as India’s Watergate. She does an injustice to the Nixon administration. In the Watergate drama the Republican President was bugging the offices of the Democratic Party. In the current episode there is overwhelming circumstantial evidence to suggest that elements within the Congress were bugging the office of their own Finance Minister (FM).
Consider the bald facts.
In September 2010 the FM wrote privately to the Prime Minister stating that adhesives similar to chewing gum were found planted in his office as well as in the offices of his advisor Mrs. Omita Paul and his private secretary Mr. Manoj Pant. Mr. Mukherjee suspected bugging and sought an investigation. In fact an investigation has already been conducted by a private detective agency hired by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) that operates under the FM. It was after obtaining the evidence unearthed by the private agency that the FM wrote to the PM. The CBDT claimed that the probe did not reveal any bugging device. Nevertheless the FM subsequently wrote to the PM demanding a probe.
If the private investigation unearthed clinching evidence would the FM have announced it? Quite likely he would have retained the evidence and sought an official probe after being sure that bugging had indeed occurred. The CBDT had no expertise in the matter of bugging. That was why a private investigation was ordered. Why private? Clearly because the FM did not trust the official agencies! Responding to the FM’s private request the PM had the Intelligence Bureau (IB) probe the matter. It gave a clean chit. The FM told media: “In respect of a news item regarding bugging in my offices, the IB investigated into it and found nothing in it."
If bugging had occurred as suggested by the fact that after a private probe the FM alerted the PM, the denials given by CBDT and later by IB may be taken with buckets of salt.
Who would seek to bug the FM’s offices?
The corporate world has enough access to information through PR channels. It would be insane for it to attempt a criminal act. The planting of the adhesive substance suggests an official hand because nobody else would have access to these offices to conduct such an exercise.
In 2010 when bugging was done the media was buzzing with speculation about data pertaining to black money abroad received from Germany and elsewhere. If the bugging was confirmed as an inside job of the Congress party would the PM or FM dare go public with it? Instead the evidence would be used as ammunition in the silent and bitter infighting under way in the party.
The bugging issue may not subside. It could fatally explode at a later more appropriate time.