Spy Versus Spy
The sensational disclosure about the possible bugging of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s office is obviously not a very simple happening but it has several dimensions to it.
It is also not the first time that cloak and dagger activities have been discovered at the highest echelons of power. Soon after Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister with a massive mandate of more than 415 MPs following his mother’s brutal assassination, a Spy scandal in the Prime Minister’s office hit the headlines in the first week of January, 1985.
Yes I am referring to the infamous Coomar Narain case, which led to the arrest of nearly a dozen persons including some lower level functionaries attached to Dr P.C.Alexander, then principal secretary to Rajiv Gandhi. The scandal shook the foundations of the government and Alexander had to eventually move out. A case under the official secrets act was registered and it was alleged that those involved in the espionage activity were doing it for commercial benefits. A Bombay Industrialist Maneck Lal was also taken into custody and IB sleuths who probed the case maintained that most of the leaked secrets pertained to commercial activities and projects and also hinted at the possible involvement of some East European countries. Many of those allegedly involved are already dead.
However, the latest case of bugging in Pranab Mukherje’s office needs to be thoroughly probed. The government is maintaining that ‘no active microphones’ were discovered in the North Block office of Mukherjee, his aide, Omita Paul and another subordinate, Manoj Pant. One can understand the government stand because if it would accept bugging, it would be compelled to register a case and thereafter make arrests. Obviously, the attempt now is to play down the incident.
What is most significant in the whole affair is that Mukherjee himself wrote to the Prime Minister asking for a secret and confidential inquiry. He also got an independent inquiry conducted through a private agency hired by the Central Board of Direct taxes (CBDT) instead of asking the Intelligence Bureau to conduct such a probe. The question which arises is that why did Mukherjee get a private party involved in the investigations instead of various government agencies. Was it because of trust deficit? Secondly, if at there was an attempt to bug the FM’s office or if it was bugged than who could have done it? There are a lot of people who maintain that political rivalry could be a possible cause for such an act. There are also suggestions that a senior minister in the government or someone powerful in the Congress party could have been behind this act of surveillance. This of course needs to be clearly established before any wild allegations start gaining currency.
The IB has already submitted its report to the Prime Minister and since it is confidential and top secret information, its contents are unknown. Newspaper reports about the incident, which quote the IB, may not be necessarily 1005 accurate since secret agencies neither deny nor confirm media reports.
There is a strong probability that corporate houses, multi nationals and even some foreign powers may be interested in knowing what takes place in the Corridors of power in the North Block. Mukherjee is one of the most powerful politicians of this era and knows the intricacies of running the government and the party more than anybody else. He is a master strategist and therefore is a natural target of many who aspire to be like him besides the forces mentioned above.
The incident also in a broad way reflects the intense power struggle going on within the ruling party and the lack of trust ministers have for each other. It is a perfect scenario for Antonio Prohias characters Spy Vs Spy in the Mad magazine. The foreign angle could include the Chinese or the Pakistanis. According to a senior RAW officer who appeared in one of the TV channels on Tuesday night, the Chinese had hacked nearly 300 official websites and mail ids of our government last year.
What is most dangerous is that till proper conclusions are reached, it will not be good to speculate on who could have done it. But those responsible of this breach must be brought to book. This is in the interests of the National security. Otherwise, the question which everyone will ask is that if the Indian Finance Minister’s security and confidentiality can be breached, then what happens to the common man. But it is also true that no one cares for the aam aadmi?