New Delhi: The Vajpayee government tried to bug the then British Prime Minister Tony Blair's bedroom at a hotel during his official visit to New Delhi in 2001. Or so claims Blair's right-hand man and spin-doctor Alastair Campbell.
In his just-released book, The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries, Campbell claims Blair had decided to use a different room at the hotel after British security service sleuths detected the bugs. Blair was not staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan during this trip.
"We arrived in Delhi and drove into town. TB (Tony Blair) motioned to the ambassador, asking if the car was bugged. He gave a kind of non-committal no. Then at the hotel our security service guys had found two bugs in TB's bedroom and said they would not be able to move them without drilling the wall, so TB used a different room. We decided against making a fuss. I was given my own valet, Sunil, who just would not leave me alone. He followed me to the gym and I literally had to tell him to disappear. He was waiting at my door when I got back..." Campbells writes in an entry dated Friday, October 5, 2001.
The incident took place at the beginning of a couple of days of shuttle diplomacy after the events of September 11. Campbell’s book was released in Britain early this month.
The report, first published as a news blog on the website of London's Guardian newspaper, has been vehemently denied by both the BJP and the Union Government.
"No such thing was done. It's a false accusation," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said. The then national security advisor and principal secretary to the prime minister, Brajesh Mishra, told a TV channel that "the British never brought such action to my notice."
"These charges are baseless,” senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha said. “The charge has been made by a discredited officer,” he claims.
According to the news blog by Randeep Ramesh on Guardian's website guardian.co.uk, Campbell records a day later that Sunil was driving him "bananas". "Everywhere I went he was there. I was beginning to wonder if he had been put there either by the spooks or a paper."
Campbell also claims that this particular India visit by Blair was added to his schedule at the insistence of the then Indian PM Atal Behari Vajpayee. "(Atal Bihari) Vajpayee (prime minister of India) was on the phone totally adamant that if TB went to Pakistan without visiting India it would be a real disaster for him. He was normally so quiet and soft spoken but there was both panic and a bit of anger in his voice," Campbell claims.
Campbell quotes Blair as saying that "having listened to (Vajpayee), there was no way we could do one without the other."