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Snoop row taken to President

New Delhi, Nov. 25: The Congress today took its fight against Narendra Modi to Rashtrapati Bhavan, leading a team of 44 women activists from various associations, institutions and NGOs to demand presidential intervention into the snooping row.

The President is unlikely to step in but the Congress is happy to have involved all these organisations on the issue of women’s rights, since such divergent groups might not have come together on a political platform to oppose Modi or his party.

The delegation included known BJP critics such as Shabnam Hashmi of Anhad, Planning Commission member Sayeda Hamid and Left representatives, as well as many members from apolitical bodies and academia.

Mahila Congress president Shobha Oza, who played a key role in arranging the trip to Rashtrapati Bhavan, was asked the inevitable question whether the Congress had used these activists and organisations in its political battle against the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.

“We haven’t organised this; the activists themselves felt what happened was insensitive and wrong,” Oza said.

“We are happy the social organisations are standing up for the cause we took up. This shows we were right in our fight.”

Congress sources said the party also wanted to send out a message to Modi that he could silence rights activists in Gujarat but not at the national level.

A purported sting operation has claimed that a Modi aide had put a young woman architect under surveillance four years ago in Gujarat “at the behest of his sahib”.

For the past few days, an unusually aggressive Congress has continually referred to the controversy, threatened to take it further and tried to link it with the larger issue of women’s freedom.

The idea is to bring Modi’s personality under a cloud and grab public attention with an allegation involving the heady cocktail of spying and a young woman.

The Congress believes the controversy can erode Modi’s appeal among the youth much more successfully than the charge of communalism, since many first-time voters are too young to remember the 2002 riots.

Women Congress leaders claim they have been receiving hundreds of calls from across the country on the subject, suggesting the controversy has created a sense of unease among women.

The memorandum given to the President included the purported transcript of the alleged sting.

“Given the grave violations of constitutional rights and laws at the behest of the highest executive authority of Gujarat, chief minister Narendra Modi and former minister of state for home Amit Shah, the situation requires your intervention,” the petition says.

It requests the President to order “an independent and fair judicial probe into the entire issue to restore the confidence of the ordinary citizens, particularly women, that state power is not being misused to breach their constitutional rights”.

The petition says that Indian law allows recording of conversations when there is a public emergency or “danger or risk for people at large”, and cites a 1997 Supreme Court ruling in support of its claim.

Modi orders probe

The Gujarat government today appointed a two-member commission of inquiry on the snooping row and asked it to report within three months, PTI said. A retired woman judge of Ahmedabad High Court, Sugnyaben K. Bhatt, heads the committee whose other member is former Gujarat additional chief secretary K.C. Kapoor.