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Hotel where Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and general secretary Ashok Gehlot stayed in Ahmedabad confirms it gave CCTV tapes to police

As video clips of Gujarat’s Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel entering and exiting a hotel in Ahmedabad in which Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi stayed on Mondaywent viral on television channels, amid suggestions that the two had held a “secret meeting”, Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot has alleged that the BJP was snooping at the leaders of his party.

Gehlot’s allegations have, in a sense, been confirmed by the management of the posh Hotel Ummed. The hotel’s officials have been quoted anonymously by various media organisations as saying that they were asked to hand over the CCTV footage of the hotel by the Gujarat police and did so.

The footage that was aired on several local channels in Gujarat almost simultaneously on Monday evening and later on national channels too shows Hardik Patel entering an elevator in the hotel around 11 pm on Sunday along with some of his supporters and exiting the next day around 4.15 pm. In one grab, he is seen inside a car, holding a handkerchief to cover his face.

Rahul Gandhi had arrived at the hotel at around 1 pm on Tuesday and left at 2.30 pm for a rally.

Media channels and the political grapevine have pointed at the footage as evidence of a “secret meeting” between Rahul and Hardik Patel though there is no confirmation yet on how the TV channels received the footage that the hotel had handed over to the Gujarat police.

The purported secret meeting between the Congress vice president and the face of Gujarat’s Patel Andolan – if it did really happen – assumes political significance since the Congress party has been desperately trying to convince Hardik to either contest the forthcoming Gujarat assembly polls as its candidate or at least endorse the party publicly and solicit votes for it, against the BJP

Hardik has vehemently denied the reports of this secret meeting with Rahul but has conceded that he did hold talks with Gehlot and laid out demands of the Patidar/Patel community (reservations in government jobs in particular) before the Congress general secretary who is the party’s in-charge for Gujarat.

Gehlot has sought to turn the row over the purported meeting to the Congress’ advantage by alleging that the leaked video footage from the hotel shows that his party’s leaders were being spied on under orders of the state’s incumbent BJP government.

“The hotel staff told me that (local) intelligence bureau and police people inquired who all came… to meet whom. Then they took away CCTV footage and gave it to the media… Whether someone met Rahul Gandhi or others, what happened… how is that any of their concern. Is anyone an absconder (sic),” Gehlot told media persons on Tuesday.

Gehlot added: “I am asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is behind all this… How did the footage come in the media… because the local IB or police, they will not do anything without a signal from the BJP government, its leaders, Chief Minister, Prime Minister or PMO… And why did they seek the footage? Are Alpesh, Hardik and Jignesh Mewani absconders (sic).”

While the Ummed Hotel’s chief security officer, Vikram Singh Shekhawat, claimed that no rooms in the hotel were searched by the police, he admitted that “there were many police and IB officials deployed in the hotel throughout the day due to VVIP visits. The police did ask for CCTV footage and, after consulting our top management, we provided it to them. This was all for security reasons.”

Denying Gehlot’s allegations, Gujarat’s deputy chief minister Nitin Patel said that there is a security protocol for a visitor like Rahul Gandhi, but the state or its police have no role in it. “VVIP security is responsibility of security agencies… to ensure sanitised venues, checking by security agencies is done. There is no role of state agencies (sic),” Patel told reporters in Gandhinagar.

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