Congress-JDS on backfoot after phone tapping details emerge in K’taka

Kumaraswamy Siddaramaiah - The Federal
Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy of JD(S) and senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah. Photo: PTI

The CBI probe into the phone tapping case in Karnataka which recently revealed that the previous coalition government of Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) had illegally tapped phones of 30 public figures, as per a recent report by Indian Express has put both the parties on a back foot.

The Congress which is attacking the ruling BJP at the Centre on the recent “snoop gate” issue, has much to answer. According to the CBI report, the HD Kumaraswamy-led government allegedly tapped phones by holding a smuggling case probe as cover.

The interim report filed by the investigating agency in September this year had also revealed that there was evidence of phone tapping of over 185 people, including senior MLAs, aides of politicians, and top cops in Bengaluru.

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Soon after Indian Express broke the news, BJP spokesperson Amit Malayaviya and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal took to Twitter to hit out at the opposition.

“The Congress which was screaming ‘state surveillance’ while hiding behind a WhatsApp spyware, was actually tapping phones of several influential people in Karnataka including revered seer Sri Sri Sri Nirmalananda Swami ji, in the run-up to LS elections…,” tweeted Malaviya, who also heads BJP’s IT cell, on Wednesday (November 6).

The incident came to light after audiotapes of conversations between Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao and one Faraz, who allegedly had links with the Congress, were released to the media.

In the tape, Rao is allegedly heard asking Faraz if he has managed to convince the Congress high command in Delhi to make him the city commissioner. Initially, the Central Crime Branch was asked to investigate into the allegations.

The allegations took a political turn when rebel MLA and former JD(S) president AH Vishwanath alleged that around 300 phones of leaders, including Congress leader Siddaramaiah, were tapped by Kumaraswamy.  Soon after, the BJP handed over the probe to the CBI.

Siddaramaiah, too, had welcomed the BJP’s decision to hand over the case to the CBI. However, he cautioned them not to misuse the body to act against the opposition in vengeance.

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Siddaramaiah had also accused the then government of tapping his phones before the Assembly last year.

On the other hand, BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje in 2018 had complained to the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh that her phones were being tapped by the Congress-JD(S) coalition government, urging him to look into the matter.

During its investigation, the agency had questioned several police officers, including former commissioner Alok Kumar, then in-charge of Bengaluru Police. The CBI even raided his house last month.

When the case was filed, Kumaraswamy had denied the allegations and was concerned when the case was handed over to the CBI. “The power of the chief minister is not permanent. The (chair) has no need to retain power by eavesdropping on telephone conversations. The allegations levelled against me are far from the truth,” he had said.