Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Thursday claimed the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government had ordered the tapping of the phones of senior leaders such as current Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, The Times of India reported.

Deshmukh said the police cyber cell had been asked to look into various complaints of surveillance during the tenure of the BJP government. “The inquiry is being done following complaints of snooping on Opposition leaders, especially during the formation of the [Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi] government,” Deshmukh added.

The home minister claimed there were reports that officers were sent to Israel to study spyware. “We are finding out who had gone to Israel and whether there was any official engagement,” Deshmukh added.

Sanjay Raut responded to reports of surveillance. “Your phone is being tapped, this was told to me by a senior BJP minister earlier,” the Sena leader tweeted. “I told him whoever wishes to listen to my conversations is free to do so. I am a disciple of Balasaheb Thackeray ji, I don’t do anything secretly. Listen to my conversation.”

Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad, a Nationalist Congress Party leader, said the phone tapping episode smacks of the “sick mentality” of the BJP. “Why do you want to poke into the people’s private life?” he asked. “There are political and ideological differences between us, but not personal. Maharashtra should know who is behind this.”

However, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis denied that his government tapped the phones of Opposition party leaders, PTI reported. He also said that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government was free to conduct any inquiry in the matter.

“Phone-tapping is not the culture of Maharashtra,” Fadnavis, a BJP leader and the Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Assembly, said. “My government had not given any such orders. The whole country knows the credibility of those who have levelled such allegations. People of Maharashtra know the truth. A Shiv Sena leader was the minister of state for home during my tenure.”

The former chief minister said the Maharashtra government could even take the help of Israel to conduct the probe.

Pawar’s security cover withdrawn

Meanwhile, NCP leaders alleged that the Narendra Modi government has withdrawn Sharad Pawar’s security cover in Delhi, according to Hindustan Times. Security personnel deployed at Pawar’s 6, Janpath residence have not turned up for duty since January 20 even though no official communication has been sent, said NCP leaders.

“It appears that Pawar saheb’s security has been withdrawn,” said NCP National Secretary Hemant Takle. Pawar has Y-category security in Delhi and Z-plus security cover in Maharashtra, NCP leaders said.

“It is nothing but vendetta politics if security of Pawar saheb has been withdrawn by the Centre,” said state minister and NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik. “He is a national president of NCP and for him threat perception is a reality. They may want to scare us but we won’t. We will fight.”