New Delhi, March 1: The suspicion that the underhand attempts to access Arun Jaitley’s call data records could be the handiwork of BJP insiders threatens to cloud Rajnath Singh’s first “show of unity” in his second innings as party president.
The BJP national council meets here for two days from Saturday, primarily to ratify Rajnath’s anointment as president but also to ratchet up the countrywide mood in the party’s favour by focusing on the UPA’s alleged omissions and commissions.
A cast of chief ministers on the dais at the Talkatora Stadium, with Narendra Modi in the lead, was what the BJP hoped to highlight to buttress its claim to have become a national alternative.
Instead, the bullish sentiments turned damp when Delhi police sources revealed on TV channels this morning that the names of two BJP leaders too figured in the Jaitley call records controversy. They are Vijay Goel, the new Delhi unit president, and Sudhanshu Mittal.
Mittal does not hold an official position but is a member of the national council. A Delhi-based businessman, he is closely associated with some senior RSS functionaries, has friends across parties and is visible in Delhi’s power circuit.
The animosity between Mittal and Jaitley is part of BJP lore. In 2004, Rajnath and Pramod Mahajan (Mittal’s patron) had nearly succeeded in pushing through his Rajya Sabha nomination but Jaitley scuttled the move.
In 2009, when Rajnath, as the BJP president, tasked Mittal with overseeing party affairs in the northeastern states during the Lok Sabha polls, a peeved Jaitley refused to attend central election committee meetings. He later made up with Rajnath.
But Jaitley’s clout began to wane with Rajnath’s ascendancy in 2009. Jaitley failed to prevent the nominations of Kirti Azad from the Darbhanga parliamentary seat and Goel from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. Insiders said Jaitley had an issue with Azad because the former Test cricketer allegedly indulged in “loose talk” about him. Goel, like Mittal, was close to Mahajan.
A source close to Jaitley claimed he was unhappy with Goel’s recent appointment as Delhi party chief but Rajnath “did not listen”.
The name of Lalit Modi, the suspended IPL commissioner, too figures on the list of those whose phone records were allegedly hacked. Modi’s problems with Jaitley go back to July 2010 when he was done out of the IPL by a BCCI disciplinary committee that had Jaitley, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Chirayu Amin, the acting IPL chairman.
Modi was purportedly close to Vasundhara Raje when she was Rajasthan chief minister. Mittal, who played a big part with Mahajan in packaging and projecting Vasundhara as the leader before the 2003 elections, was said to be “resentful” of the manner in which Modi reportedly wormed his way into her circles.
BJP insiders claimed that the relative of a leader, “resentful” of Jaitley’s powers, was “linked” to the phone records controversy.
Asked if the names being mentioned formed a pattern, a source said: “This (the snooping on Jaitley) seems to have been done by either the Intelligence Bureau or a private rogue cabal. The IB has lately been known to use sophisticated surveillance techniques. It uses private sleuths for the same objective.”
Asked who the members of the purported “cabal” could be, the source said: “Maybe it includes elements from the BJP.”
Mittal called a media conference this morning and said he knew Anurag Singh, a software expert who is the main suspect in the case.
“He visited me twice. He is the son of a senior customs official and is so soft-spoken that I got taken in. He sought my help. People who seek help make a victim of you,” Mittal said. He did not spell out the nature of the “help” Anurag allegedly sought.
However, BJP leaders are annoyed with Mittal for his media interaction, saying he ought not to have poured fuel into the embers.
Sources refused to join the dots. Although the controversy has been in the news for over 10 days, the BJP has shrugged off the media’s queries.
The BJP’s reticence has been more intriguing because it rarely passes up a chance to take on the UPA.
Today, faced with the possibility that the controversy could unseal a can of worms, BJP sources spoke of how the Congress was “out to get us” because of the Opposition party’s “growing popularity”.
Jaitley today smiled when reminded how, in 1988, Ramakrishna Hegde had to quit as Karnataka chief minister because he was accused of tapping the phones of Opposition members.