New Delhi: In a major embarrassment for ruling Congress party, two of its key allies in the UPA government — the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the National Conference — on Sunday objected to setting up of a judicial panel to probe the Gujarat snoopgate scandal, allegedly involving Narendra Modi, saying "it's not the right time to do so".
Senior NCP leader Praful Patel, also a central minister, said his party "does not approve setting up of snoopgate panel at this stage" as the country would get a new government in 10 days' time, and party chief Sharad Pawar had already made that clear to outgoing Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Echoing him, the Jammu and Kashmir-based National Conference also said that the UPA at this juncture should not push for appointing any judge to investigate if the Gujarat police had spied on a young woman architect at the behest of Modi, the three-time Gujarat chief minister and the main opposition BJP's prime ministerial candidate.
"Setting up a commission of inquiry in the dying hours of UPA 2 is just wrong," National Conference leader and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, adding that he was talking to his father Farooq Abdullah and he also felt the same.
However, the Congress, which has leveraged the scandal to allege that Modi violated the privacy of a woman, blatantly breaking the laws to have her phones tapped and her movements monitored, immediately went into a damage control mode, with Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid saying it would definitely take into consideration the views of its allies on the issue.
In fact, the remarks of the two key allies of UPA came two days after two senior Congress Ministers – Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde – had announced that the outgoing government would appoint a judge to probe into the snoopgate scandal by May 16, the day when the results for the ongoing general elections will be announced.
"You will get a snoopgate judge before May 16," Sibal had said on Friday. Within hours, the Home Minister had added: "The decision was taken more than four months ago by the Union Cabinet. I am worried. The way the Chief Minister of Gujarat had snooped into the life of a woman, I am really worried what will happen to the women of the country if he becomes the prime minister."
The BJP has already dubbed the move to probe snoopgate scandal as nothing but the Congress' "stoopgate" scandal, saying the ruling party has been resorting to such "dirty tricks" to defame Modi whom it knows can't defeat in politics.
Satrajit Moitra - Times Correspondent