TMC Writes to EC Over Audio Clip Released by BJP; Calls It Illegal

“The BJP has not only illegally recorded...but also played it at the press conference out of context,” TMC alleged.

Updated
West Bengal
5 min read
The BJP released an audio clip on the evening of 16 April, a day before the fifth phase of polling.
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The Trinamool Congress (TMC) wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) on Saturday, 17 April, for allegedly recording and releasing an audio clip of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with the party’s Sitalkuchi MLA candidate Partha Pratim Roy.

In the purported clip, Banerjee can be heard talking to the TMC candidate, allegedly asking him to hold rallies with the bodies of the four people who were killed by the security forces in Cooch Behar district's Sitalkuchi constituency on 10 April, PTI reported.

The letter – undersigned by party leaders Yashwant Sinha, Derek ’O Brien and Purnendu Basu – reads, “It is unprecedented that a Chief Minister’s phone has been intercepted at BJP’s behest and leaked one day before polls.”

“The BJP has not only illegally recorded and/or caused it to be recorded, but also played it at the press conference out of context,” the TMC further alleged.

Earlier on Friday evening, the BJP had released the audio clip at a press conference.

What Can Be Heard in the Audio Clip?

A female voice in the clip, claiming to be of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and a male voice on the other side claimed to be that of TMC’s Sitalkuchi MLA candidate Partha Pratim Roy, can be heard.

In the purported clip, Banerjee can be heard talking to the TMC candidate, allegedly asking him to hold rallies with the bodies of the four people who were killed by the security forces on 10 April, PTI reported.

BJP Chief JP Nadda had tweeted the audio clip yesterday evening, the legitimacy of which is yet to be verified.

PM Modi Hits Out at Banerjee Over Clip

Prime Minister Narendra Modi while speaking in Asansol on Saturday alleged that Banerjee was conspiring to use the bodies of the dead victims of last week's Cooch Behar firing in order to get more votes.

While referring to the audio clip, Modi said, “To what extent will you go for vote bank politics, Didi? The truth is that Didi thought about her political advantage even through the dead people. Playing politics over dead bodies is an old habit of hers.”

The BJP on Saturday urged the Bengal CEO Aariz Aftab to take note of the alleged audio clip. The delegation to the CEO office was led by Senior BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta.

Though the clip was released by BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya himself, it was pointed out that the audio clip could lead to tension during the upcoming phases of the election.

TMC Alleges Wiretapping

The Trinamool Congress, has rejected the authenticity of the clip and has hit out at the BJP, asserting that the audio clip has been distorted to spread misinformation. Serious questions about wiretapping have also been raised.

CM Mamata Banerjee asked for a CID probe in order to find out everyone involved in tapping her phone.

Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha, who had recently joined the TMC, has asked for an immediate, high-level and independent enquiry into the 'audio clip' released by the BJP IT cell.

Sinha told IANS in an exclusive interview that the Union government has "very strict rules" on authorisation of wiretapping and eavesdropping on telephone conversations.

“There is a clear list of categories whose phones can be tapped for reasons of national security such as terrorists, smugglers, suspected foreign espionage agents and the like,” said Sinha. “I can say with the authority of experience that phones of Chief Ministers cannot be tapped.”

He insisted that tapping phones of Opposition leaders without authorisation should not only merit stringent legal action but was tantamount to denial of privacy and political rights in what is still a democracy.

The clip allegedly claims that Banerjee is asking Roy about those killed in the Sitalkuchi firings during the fourth round of West Bengal Assembly polls. "Keep the dead bodies so that the party could hold a rally with the dead," the female voice is heard saying.

Sinha told IANS only national security agencies have the wherewithal to wire-tap phones and eavesdrop on telephone conversation.

“We need an enquiry where these agency heads must be summoned to depose about whether they have been tapping a sitting chief minister’s phone and if so, who has authorised the tapping,” Sinha said.

If it is found, they did not do it and the audio clip is fake, the BJP has a huge explanation to make, said Sinha.

“How can the BJP release a fake audio a day before the polls! Is it not an effort to unfairly influence the elections! Will the Election Commission take cognisance of it?”
Yashwant Sinha told IANS

Sinha raised some serious questions and said, "If the audio clip is genuine, it is obvious the central agencies are behind the wiretap. If that is true, how is it possible they are releasing the material to the IT cell of the ruling party.”

He further said that Home Minister Amit Shah will have to come clean on who authorised the wiretap as the Intelligence Bureau is under the Home Ministry.

"If the audio tape is fake as Partha Pratim Roy has already denied any such conversation took place, Mamata Banerjee can sue the BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya for criminal defamation and the Election Commission will have to take cognisance of its illegal activities," Sinha added.

"The activity of the BJP IT Cell reminds of Goebbels propaganda department in Nazi Germany. The country should know where it is heading," Sinha said.

What the BJP Is Saying?

BJP leaders are accusing Banerjee of "playing politics over dead bodies".

Bengal BJP leader and sitting MLA Samik Bhattacharya referred to the part of the audio clip where the lady can be heard saying "SP, IC, Commandant could be transferred." Bhattacharya says that this shows the condition of law and order in West Bengal.

TMC Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray warned the BJP of "walking into a pit".

“Does the BJP IT Cell chief realise his action points to telephone surveillance of a Chief Minister! The Home Minister has categorically claimed in the Parliament, I repeat the Parliament, that no Chief Minister is under telephone surveillance. We will expose these lies politically,” Ray told mediapersons.

Not the First Time

During the previous round of Bengal polls, the BJP IT cell had released select portions of a conversation between Mamata Banerjee's leading political strategist Prashant Kishor and some journalists, claiming that even Kishor had acknowledged the BJP was headed to win the state polls.

However, Kishor dared the BJP IT Cell to release the whole interview and denied predicting a BJP win. He stuck to his earlier prediction that the BJP’s tally “will not cross double digits”.

Forty-five seats go to polls in the fifth phase on Saturday, 17 April, amid tight security, where over one crore voters will decide the fate of 342 candidates.

Districts of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Jalpaiguri in north Bengal and the districts of Nadia, Purba Bardhaman, and North 24 Parganas in south Bengal are polling in this phase.

(With inputs from IANS)

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