Come election season and the demand for private detectives zooms up. After all, elections these days are more about besmirching the reputation of opponents rather than banking on one’s own positive qualities. That’s why candidates across parties hire professional spies to gather personal and professional secrets of their rivals so that these can help tarnish their public image.
“Even candidates of the same party hire spies to find out each other’s weaknesses. Such information is considered crucial as it can scuttle the chances of another candidate at the time of claiming the candidature or party ticket,” says Harminder Singh, a private detective in Delhi.
The private sleuths Outlook spoke with have been hired for the duration of the elections by parties to collect negative information about rivals and keep a watch on their election rallies, public gatherings and speeches.
But they say business hasn’t been as good this year as it was in 2014. Social media is to blame here too. “Every adversary of a candidate acts as spy and stalker and makes any negative information go viral within minutes,” says a private detective. Often, the business or private lives of candidates are already no secret. “Even the info gathered by us is used by the client for social media mischief. They use someone else’s Twitter handle to put such information in public domain,” he adds requesting anonymity as he is working for a prominent candidate.
The Private Detective Agencies (Regulation) Bill, 2007, which provides for the regulation and licensing of private detective agencies in India, is pending for parliamentary approval. This means spying is an unregulated business in India. Hence, it’s a dicey business as culling out personal information without violating the right to privacy of a person poses a big challenge. “We don’t exercise surveillance on anyone like that. Rather we try and gather information by enquiring about people so that we don’t break any law,” says Singh.