The Big Story: Invading Privacy

With the Election Commission of India announcing on Wednesday that Gujarat will go to polls on December 9 and 14, the election campaign in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached a feverish pitch.

Unlike 2012, the Bharatiya Janata Party is facing challenges from multiple corners in Gujarat, where young leaders claiming to represent the interests of powerful communities have become a thorn in the flesh of the ruling party. Perhaps the most challenging among them is Hardik Patel, the Patidar Anamant Andolan Samiti convenor, who led the Patidars’ agitations in 2015 demanding reservations.

The BJP has left no stone unturned to counter the 24-year-old, with Patel facing multiple criminal cases filed during the agitations in 2015, including a case of ransacking a BJP office on which a court issued a non-bailable warrant on Wednesday. One of the strategies used by the BJP to delegitimise the young leader is to project him as a pawn in the political game of the Congress, something the party hopes would bring his supporters back to the BJP. In previous elections, the Patels were considered an important vote bloc of the BJP.

However, this week’s developments have left the Opposition wondering to what level the BJP would go to complete this delegitimising process of Patel. On Monday, CCTV footage from a hotel in Ahmedabad was selectively leaked to certain television channels. The footage showed Patel hurriedly leaving a hotel after allegedly meeting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi. With clockwork precision, the BJP went to town with the video, pointing to the footage as decisive proof of its accusation that Patel and Gandhi were in a secret alliance against the ruling party.

Allegations such as these are common during an election. But what has raised concerns is the manner in which the footage was leaked. Though it outright denied the meeting, the Congress pointed fingers at the state police and the intelligence bureau, claiming that both Gandhi and Patel have been put under illegal surveillance by the state government. How did select television channels get access to the footage so quickly if not with the help of the police, was the Congress’s poser.

This is not the first time that a snooping allegation has been made in the context of the Patidar leader. In 2015, the Gujarat police was accused of tapping Patel’s phones during the Patidar agitations, a matter that went up to the Gujarat High Court.

There have been other such cases of snooping in Gujarat, most infamous of which was of a woman in 2009. Both then chief minister Modi and the BJP president Amit Shah, who was then a minister in the state, were directly dragged into the case where allegations of surveillance on a young architect was made.

While the police, in the course of criminal investigations, do resort to surveillance in order to collect evidence, such actions are undertaken after obtaining due permission through procedures established by law. If the Congress’s allegations are to be believed, the police in Gujarat seem to have misused their powers in the process of aiding the ruling party. This is a grave charge of violating several fundamental rights, especially since the Supreme Court has declared that citizens have a fundamental right to privacy which is an integral part of right to life. Even if the police, as it has claimed, had no role to play in the incident, it is incumbent on them to investigate how the leak happened, given that the charge of illegal surveillance involved Rahul Gandhi, whose security is covered by the Special Protection Group and is considered to be among high-risk targets in the country.

The Big Scroll

  • Aarefa Johari reports on the dilemma faced by Hardik Patel’s supporters of whether to vote against the BJP or back the Congress.   


  1. The bank recapitalisation scheme reflects government’s failure to transform state-capital relations, says Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express. 
  2. Varghese K George of The Hindu on why India should be concerned about the pace of the American retreat from post-War institution. 
  3.  25 years on, Indian mobile telephony finds itself at a crossroads, says Rajeev Chandrashekar in Bloomberg Quint


Don’t miss

Government’s rescue act for banks could turn out to be a case of throwing good money after bad, writes Devangshu Datta.

“This financial engineering will result in partial recapitalisation. But at least twice as much will be required by 2019 to simply bring public sector banks up to required Basel III levels. Even more might be required since non-performing assets (loans on which the principal or interest payment is overdue for 90 days) and stressed loans continue to proliferate. So do farm loan waivers. Plus, assuming credit growth recovers, even more money will be required for recaps – more loans will mean additional Tier-I requirements.”