Bengaluru: Former Karnataka chief minister HD Kumaraswamy has been caught in a major row of phone tapping of senior political leaders, including the current CM BS Yediyurappa.
A report by the Bengaluru Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP) has revealed that while the police were authorised to tap phones of those involved in crime for a brief spell, the law-enforcers went beyond their brief. Who instructed them to do so is a mystery.
The report into the surveillance allegations has revealed that phones of several politicians, bureaucrats and journalists were tapped in recent months during the tenure of former chief minister H D Kumaraswamy, especially when rebel MLAs were planning to ditch the coalition.
“There was illegal tapping of phones of MLAs and bureaucrats. Close associates of the current Chief Minister and other leaders were also being monitored,” police sources were quoted in the media.
The sources added that some of the phone taps of politicians and their associates were illegal.
Based on the preliminary report submitted by the JCP to the DGP, the Yediyurappa government is likely to order a probe by the CID, sources were quoted.
Cutting across party lines, Congress leaders like Siddaramaiah, former Home Minister M B Patil, former Opposition leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and former BJP Home Minister R Ashok demanded a probe into the phone tapping scam.
The scam came to light when there was a bitter internecine battle between officers in the Karnataka Police for the post of Bengaluru Police Commissioner.
On June 17, Kumaraswamy appointed 1994-batch IPS officer Alok Kumar. This led to lot of heartburn in the police force as he had just been promoted to ADGP rank and then made Commissioner, superseding 21 ADGPs. The move also resulted in turmoil within the coalition.
Before his appointment as Commissioner, Kumar was Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) for the city and had powers to authorise phone taps of persons linked to criminal activities.
But on August 2, Yediyurappa shunted out Kumar and brought in his favourite Bhaskar Rao. The bad blood between senior officers was evident when Kumar stayed away from the customary handing over of charge to his successor despite Rao waiting in the Commissioner’s office to receive the baton.
As Rao was settling in his new office, a mysterious tape of an alleged conversation that he had with a man linked to the Congress high command emerged on a local television channel in Karnataka.
In the leaked conversations, Rao was heard asking an alleged middle man Faraz to lobby on his behalf with a Congress leader for the post of Bengaluru police commissioner. The purported conversations also refer to efforts being made by a junior police officer (read Alok Kumar) to be appointed Commissioner by superseding all seniors.
The alleged conversations seemed to have occurred prior to June 2019 when the Congress-JD(S) coalition lead by Kumaraswamy was still in power and a few senior police officers in Karnataka were vying for the post of Bengaluru Police Commissioner. The authenticity of the taped conversation is yet to established.
Who leaked the tape to the media is now part of a probe, but it was obviously done to embarrass Rao.
A livid Rao then complained to state DGP Neelamani Raju about the incident setting in motion an inquiry. JCP (Crime) Sandeep Patil was appointed to conduct an inquiry into the origins of the leaked conversations.
It is during this enquiry that skeletons started tumbling out. Not just the conversation of criminals, but also of politicians, bureaucrats, senior police officers and journalists were tapped.
The preliminary inquiry also revealed that on August 2, when the Police Commissioner was being changed, a senior police officer asked officials at a technical cell involved in intercepting phone calls to provide recordings of the new Commissioner’s phone conversations with the alleged Congress middle man on a pen drive.
The leaked conversations then allegedly found their way to a television channel through another IPS officer.
While the JD(S) is silent on the issue, the BJP and Congress have demanded a full probe. Kumaraswamy has distanced himself from the incident saying “I have always said when I was the CM that power is not permanent. I did not have the necessity to hang on to power by tapping the phones of people. Allegations of my involvement in this matter is all false.”
But then, the officer involved was his nominee and he was the CM; the buck stops at his table.