Updated: June 20, 2021 8:56:42 am
The spectre of political phone tapping is looming again in Karnataka with a BJP MLA considered to be among those opposing the leadership of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa alleging that his phone is under surveillance.
The BJP MLA from the Hubli Dharwad West constituency, Arvind Bellad, was among several MLAs who raised the flag of dissent in a short-lived attempt to get the BJP to change the leadership in Karnataka during a recent visit by state in-charge Arun Singh.
Bellad, 51, has expressed suspicions of his phone being tapped—he said certain people seem to be aware of his whereabouts and meetings—and of receiving calls from a man identifying himself as Yuvaraj Swami, the “spiritual leader” who is in prison for cheating dozens including a former High Court judge.
Based on a letter written by Bellad to the state Home Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly regarding the suspicions of phone tapping, the matter has been referred to the Bengaluru Police for investigation by the state Director General of Police Praveen Sood.
“We have referred the matter to the police commissioner. He has said that a probe will be done by an appropriate officer,” Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said on the allegations made by the MLA Bellad.
The allegations of phone tapping by a member of the ruling party have come even as the state government is yet to sanction the filing of chargesheets by the CBI against several police officials in a case of tapping of phones of several prominent persons and politicians registered in 2019 during the tenure of the JDS-Congress government.
The BJP government which came to power in July 2019 had handed the probe of the phone tapping case to the CBI but no clearance for filing of a chargesheet has been given in the case.
“Some days ago I returned a call that I missed, a person said he was Yuvraj Swami and that he wanted to speak about political developments. I disconnected the call,” Bellad said. “A few days later the person called again saying he was wrongly imprisoned,” the MLA said.
Bellad said that he suspected a conspiracy over the calls being made by a person who is in prison with whom he had not spoken earlier.
An astrologer and alleged serial cheat, Yuvaraj Swami—who claimed to have high connections in the BJP and RSS—was arrested by the Bengaluru police in December 2020 on charges of duping multiple people of several crores by promising them high government positions using his connections. Swami was suspected to have been part of a political coup that was being attempted in the state last year when he was arrested.
The BJP MLA Bellad has also said that some people seemed to be aware of all his movements and “all these things make me feel that my phone has been tapped and is monitored.”
“A copy of the complaint by the MLA Arvind Bellad has been transferred to the Bengaluru police by the state DGP. He has said that calls have come from an unknown number on a few occasions. He has also alleged that his phone is being tapped. We will collect information from the MLA and investigate,” the Bengaluru police commissioner Kamal Pant stated.
“Yediyurappa entrusted the telephone tapping investigation to the CBI in 2019 when he came to power after the Kumaraswamy-led coalition government. When his own party leader Bellad has raised the issue, why has the investigation been given to the Bengaluru police,” the state Congress chief D K Shivakumar said on Saturday.
The name of the Hubli Dharwad MLA Arvind Bellad has emerged in recent days as a possible chief minister candidate in the event of the BJP deciding to change leadership in Karnataka.
Bellad belongs to the Panchamshali sect of the dominant Lingayat community – which is large in size but has been complaining in recent times of being overshadowed by the Banajiga sect which is smaller in size but has enjoyed less political power in the state.
Karnataka CM Yediyurappa and as many as eight other ministers in the BJP cabinet in Karnataka belong to the Banajiga sect while there are only three ministers from the Panchamshali sect in the state cabinet. The Panchamshalis staged a protest for over a month earlier this year seeking backward caste categorisation and reservations in the state.
Bellad’s father Chandrakanth Bellad is a veteran BJP leader with roots in the RSS who never became a minister in Karnataka. Chandrakanth Bellad made a public statement last week saying chief minister B S Yediyurappa must resign from his post due to unhappiness in the party over his leadership.
In August 2019, the then new BJP government in Karnataka had ordered a full-fledged CBI investigation into political phone tapping in the state after a preliminary probe by the Bengaluru police revealed that large scale illegal tapping had allegedly occurred during the tenure of the previous JD(S)-Congress coalition government.
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