Accusations of phone tapping during his tenure as chief minister have been plaguing HD Kumaraswamy for several days now but trouble could intensify after current Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa announced that he will write to the CBI on Monday to probe all allegations in the case. Here's all you need to know:
1. HD Kumaraswamy appeared nonchalant when asked about the issue by reporters on Sunday, saying he is neither distressed nor anxious at the prospect of being investigated, the CM can order any high-level inquiry or even seek the help of international agencies including asking US President Donald Trump for assistance in the investigation.
2. The controversy started with a leaked phone call, allegedly between the current commissioner of police of Bengaluru, Bhaskar Rao and an accused in the IMA ponzi scam named Faraz. The leaked audio purportedly had conversations of Faraz claiming that he is a close aide a of senior Congress leader and holds enough sway to secure the post of commissioner of police for the IPS officer.
3. After this audio clip became public, an inquiry headed by Joint Commissioner of police (crime), Bengaluru was ordered by Bhaskar Rao and the interim report for the same was submitted on August 12 to the DG&IGP of Karnataka, Neelmani Raju. Sources confirm that the report asserted that phone conversations of close to 40 police officials including senior IPS officers by an ADGP rank official was prevalent.
4. Subsequently, a massive bombshell was dropped by disqualified MLA, former state president of the JDS, H Vishwanath who alleged that the phone calls of all 17 Congress and JDS MLAs who resigned were tapped and they were threatened by the then CM’s office to support the government or the audio clips would be released to the media.
5. Vishwanath also claimed that personal phones of close to 300 people from various fields, including bureaucrats and journalists, were monitored and recorded by the JDS-Congress government and used to determine the possible political threats to the coalition. He then demanded a thorough probe into the alleged eavesdropping and placed the blame directly at former CM HD Kumaraswamy for wanting to spy on his legislators.
6. The phone-tapping polemic has split the Congress party in Karnataka right down the middle with senior leaders speaking in different tones. Former home minister MB Patil has said that the allegations are grave and should be scrutinised to get to the truth. He found support in his party colleague and another former home minister, Ramalinga Reddy.
7. Reddy stated that the previous Modi-led NDA government had indulging in eavesdropping and that phoned of many opposition leaders, including his own was routinely listened to for political purposes. Reddy demanded that the purview of the investigation should be expanded to spying by the previous government at the centre too.
8. After chief minister Yediyurappa’s decision to hand over the phone-tapping case to CBI, the congress Karnataka Twitter handle had attacked the CM but withdrew its objection after the former CM Siddaramaiah tweeted welcoming the move. He, however, topped that with a demand to also investigate ‘Operation Kamala’ and the circumstances in which BJP came back to power in the state.
9. Karnataka is no stranger to political phone-tapping. In 1988, the then Janata Party government headed by Ramakrishna Hegde was badgered with allegations of listening into conversations of political opponents. Ironically, the tipping point then was tapping of a phone call between JDS supremo HD Devegowda and Ajit Singh that was reported by a national newspaper. Consequently, Ramakrishna Hegde had to step down as CM following the uproar over the allegations.
10. Legally, interceptions of personal phones is a crime and can be allowed only for national security reasons. If done for other reasons, it can attract imprisonment of up to three years under article 66 of the IT act.