India women’s body to probe claims Modi aide ordered spying

India women’s body to probe claims Modi aide ordered spying
Narendra Modi (left) and BJP president Rajnath Singh at a ceremony in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI - India's top women's rights body said Wednesday it would investigate allegations that a former close confidant of prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had ordered police illegally to spy on a woman.

The National Commission of Women (NCW) said it would take up claims by local media that a former junior home minister from the western state of Gujarat ordered police to conduct surveillance on the woman in 2009.

Amit Shah was a minister in the state government led by Chief Minister Modi, who is a leader of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and is now its candidate for national elections due next year.

"We will be writing to the state home minister about the act done by the then-home minister (Shah)....and at whose instance he has done it," Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a member of the government-funded NCW, told reporters.

She said the state government must answer "under what authority" it used "this kind of interception" on the woman.

Three units of the Gurarat police allegedly used their powers to tail the woman as she visited shopping malls, the gym and even her ailing mother in hospital in a weeks-long investigation, according to two online news portals.

The portals said they have obtained recordings of 267 phone conversations between Shah, the home minister until 2010, and a police officer who has handed the recordings over to the federal national Criminal Bureau of Investigation.

"Given the scale and intensity of the surveillance mounted on her, the whole operation comes across as not just a snooping but a stalking enterprise driven by personal agenda," the Mint newspaper said Wednesday.

The ruling Congress party has demanded a wider probe into the issue. The BJP has dismissed the allegations as a smear campaign against Modi, who is leading in opinion polls before the elections.

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