The dust of political drama in Karnataka is refusing to settle down. With by-elections in 15 Assembly constituencies scheduled to be held on December 5, one has to see whether Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s failure in the state to deal with the floods and the rainfall will cost the saffron party. However, what continues to dominate the news is conspiracies, complaints of the ruling government against the opposition and petty politics of the political leaders.
A few days ago, a video featuring CM Yedyurappa had gone viral, which purportedly showed that ‘operation Kamala’ was in fact carried out to topple the Janata Dal (Secular) [JD(S)]-Congress coalition government, following the orders of the BJP central leadership. Just a few days after this, Narayana Gowda, one of the disqualified MLAs, claimed that the CM Yeddyurappa had promised him Rs 1,000 crore for the development of his constituency Krishnarajpet and that the money was being spent on developments works. These developments have been dominating the headlines in the state.
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On the other hand, the infamous phone tapping case made it back to the headlines on November 6. In a recent investigation, it has come to light that the Bengaluru police illegally tapped telephones of several public figures, allegedly. The BJP government had accused the previous government led by H D Kumaraswamy of having tapped phones of various political leaders illegally, and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed an FIR under Section 72 (Penalty for breach of confidentiality and privacy) of the Information Technology Act and Section 26 (unlawfully intercepting or disclosing messages) of the Indian Telegraph Act.
According to several media reports, the investigation by the CBI has brought to light several illegal interceptions that were in fact carried out. According to The Indian Express report, as many as 30 phone numbers were tapped by slipping them into the list of the numbers of those who were suspects in the infamous “red sanders” smuggling case: in which the police were lawfully intercepting the suspects. The police also had successfully cracked the case. They had arrested 13 people and had seized 4,000 kg of sandalwood worth over Rs 4 crore.
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In the first week of August, a conversation between newly appointed Bengaluru police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao, with a certain Faraz—a person who claims to be close to senior Congress leaders—was made public. This conversation purportedly took place before Rao’s appointment, who was heard lobbying for the post of Bengaluru police commissioner. However, as per a report by Livemint, Rao was appointed as the commissioner by Yeddyurappa after replacing Alok Kumar, who had taken over the position just a month before that. As per the report, Rao’s appointment was the result of Yedyyurappa approving tens of transfers of the officers appointed by the previous government. When these transfers were being questioned, NewsClick had reported that the Yeddyurappa and the BJP had brought this phone tapping scandal out.
The question raised by many is not whether the phones were tapped or not; what the CBI is interested in is how these confidential interceptions reached social media. This is perceived by many as an attempt by the BJP government to merely attack the opposition.
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According to several reports, the former commissioner, Alok Kumar, has been at the centre of the investigation. The Indian Express reportedly quoted its sources as saying that some of the police officers questioned have provided detailed accounts of the interceptions done under the orders of superiors. This has led to the investigation of Alok Kumar and fingers are also being pointed at H D Kumaraswamy, under whose government, Alok Kumar was appointed. Kumaraswamy, however, has been reported to have casually said that there is no CM under whom phone tapping had not been done. Express also reported BJP deputy CM CN Ashwathanarayan alleging that there was phone tapping “on a large scale and in an illegal manner” under the JD(S)-Congress government.
However, while these investigations are underway, one should not exonerate the government and should continue to question what it has done to help the flood-affected farmers.
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