New Delhi: Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Friday claimed that erstwhile BJP government had tapped into the phones of opposition leaders, including Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, during the recent Maharashtra Assembly elections, following which he ordered a probe into the misuse of government machinery. Also Read - Mumbai Containment Zones Today: Over 10,000 Buildings Identified as COVID-Hotspot; 671 Areas Sealed

“We have received many complaints of phone-tapping and snooping by the previous government. Phones of senior leaders like Uddhav Thackeray, Sanjay Raut and even Sharad Pawar were tapped to know who they were talking to,” Deshmukh alleged. Also Read - Day After Fadnavis-Raut Meeting, Sharad Pawar Visits Maharashtra CM Uddhav | What Did They Discuss?

He added that there were complaints alleging that some officers were sent to Israel to study different snooping software used in the misconduct. However, it is still being investigated whether they had any official engagement, he said. Also Read - Maharashtra: 'No Political Talks', Raut, Fadnavis Dismiss Rumours About Sena And BJP Patch-up

The phone tapping, that reportedly began before the state assembly polls, first came to surface during the formation of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress, after a month-long power tussle between the BJP and Sena.

However former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis denied the claims and asserted, “Phone tapping of opposition leaders is not a tradition of Maharashtra. Our govt never gave such an order. Present state govt is free to do any probe by any agency. Even Shiv Sena leaders were a part of State Home Ministry then.”

On Friday, Sena leader Sanjay Raut had made a similar claim in a tweet where he said that a senior BJP minister of state had given him the information earlier that phones of non-BJP leaders were being tapped.

“Your phones are being tapped… A senior minister of BJP had also given this information to me. Where was I..Bhai Saheb…My talk if anyone wants to listen. So welcome… I am a disciple of Balasaheb Thakreji. There is nothing to do or work secretly… Listen to me,” the tweet read.

Raut later told reporters that phone tapping is commonly done in politics nowadays and that the Union Home Ministry was “habituated” to do so. “I don’t take it very seriously… in spite of them indulging in phone tapping, we formed the govt in Maharashtra,” he said.

Deshmukh said that the cyber cell of Maharashtra Police was looking into complaints of surveillance, including snooping and phone tapping, that were lodged during the reign of the previous government. Reports also suggest that subsequently the Uddhav Thackeray government also launched an inquiry into the case.