Gloves off in presidential campaign: BJP makes phone-tap charges


New Delhi : The war of words between the Congress and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reached a higher decibel Wednesday with the latter accusing the government of tapping one of its leader's telephones and the so-far-reticent Congress launching a scathing counter-attack.

Support TwoCircles

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj alleged that her telephone was being tapped by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, as the Congress accused Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of misusing his office to telephone MPs and MLAs to seek votes for the July 19 presidential election.

Swaraj, who sought to equate the alleged telephone tapping with that of the historic Watergate scandal in the US said her party would complain to the Election Commission.

However, the Congress dismissed the BJP's allegation, with Women and Child Development Minister Renuka Chowdhury saying: "I am seriously recommending a mass discount for psychiatric consultation for the BJP leaders."

"We are quite aware what kind of strategies the BJP would be adopting. We do not have to waste our resources on it," said Chowdhury.

The Congress, which has been less than forthright in countering the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA)'s campaign against its presidential candidate Pratibha Patil, termed the opposition's attack "pathetic" as it lashed out at the opposition strategy Wednesday.

"I have outstanding sympathy and pity for the BJP, which has launched a website with myth and fallacies of what they imagined," said Chowdhury in reference to an anti-website,, put up by the BJP.

"They have finally reached the lowest level. That may not be new for the BJP, but we cannot stoop to that level."

"If I launch a website on the BJP, not one, but 30 (websites) will not be enough to publicise their hypocrisies," she added, pointing out that the decision of Arun Shourie, disinvestment minister in the erstwhile NDA government, to sell off the state-owned Centaur hotels had left thousands of workers on the road.

According to Chowdhury, the BJP has made Shekhawat a "scapegoat" in the presidential race as Patil's victory is a foregone conclusion. Patil, supported by the UPA, Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party, has more support in the electoral college.

Reiterating that Patil had an "unblemished career record", Chowdhury said: "I appeal to the BJP not to lie. We all have to go to god, where there is no lotus (BJP symbol) and nor hand (Congress symbol) and all have to walk in barefoot."

The presidential poll campaign took an ugly turn last month when the opposition accused Patil of financial impropriety and of shielding her brother, who is facing murder charges in Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, Patil, who was in Bhopal as part of her campaign tour, urged MLAs to uphold the basic principles and secular values "unperturbed by attempts of character assassination".

In an apparent reference to the campaign against her, the 72-year-old former Rajasthan governor reminded the legislators that they had the "responsibility to uphold the dignity of the high office as enshrined in the constitution".