MUMBAI: The political temperature in Maharashtra shot up on Friday as the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) criticised the Centre for withdrawing ‘Y’ category security cover to party chief Sharad Pawar in New Delhi. Parallelly, the state government launched a probe into allegations of phone tapping by the erstwhile BJP government led by Devendra Fadnavis. And the Centre wrested back control over the Bhima Koregaon case, as it transferred it to the National Investigation Agency from the state police.
Security personnel deployed at Pawar’s Delhi residence stopped reporting for work since January 20, the NCP claimed, adding the withdrawal happened without prior intimation. Pawar is a ‘Z+’ category protectee in Maharashtra and a Rajya Sabha member.
“The Centre withdrew Sharad Pawar’s security out of jealousy but such moves will scare no one,” Maha Vikas Aghadi minister and NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said, even as his colleague Jitendra Awhad warned of a full scale probe into snooping, a charge Fadnavis was quick to reject. “Sharad Pawar, Uddhav Thackeray, Digvijay Singh and Sanjay Raut’s phones were tapped by BJP misusing Pegasus spyware bought from Israel,” Awhad alleged. With Home Minister Anil Deshmukh ordering the probe, Awhad added, “Officers were sent to Israel. The ‘why’ needs to be investigated.”
As for Bhima Koregaon case, Pawar’s push for a probe into the alleged phone tapping of activists made the Centre anxious.
Awhad said, “The Pegasus spyware was obtained to tap into conversations of political leaders, journalists and Dalit writers and activists of Bhima Koregaon and malign them. Facebook has revealed that and a case was registered in San Francisco.”
Saying “The MVA did not withdraw or downgrade Fadnavis’ security for we do not believe in vendetta,” Awhad said, “We have reasons to believe that phone tapping is linked to the Bhima Koregaon case too.”
Shiv Sena legislator Deepak Kesarkar, who was minister of state for home in the Fadnavis government, was quick to clear himself saying, “I was not part of any decision of the previous government. If the snooping charges are true, there should be proper investigation.”
Former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis said phone tapping is not a tradition of Maharashtra.
“As the chief minister, I never gave such an order to tap Opposition phone calls. The Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi is free to initiate any probe it likes. They can also try Israel and Kesarkar in our government, who was a minister. We have no objections,” the BJP leader said.