Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa said Sunday that he will ask the CBI to investigate the alleged illegal tapping of phones of politicians and bureaucrats by the state police during the previous Congress-JD(S) coalition government headed by H D Kumaraswamy.
“In the matter of telephone tapping, the leader of the Congress party in the state legislature (Siddaramaiah) and many other leaders have demanded a probe to bring out the truth and so we are going to issue orders tomorrow to hand over the matter to the CBI for a thorough investigation and action against all those who are involved,’’ Yediyurappa said.
The decision was taken by Yediyurappa, who is the lone member of the state cabinet, following directions from the BJP high command, party sources said.
Yediyurappa was in Delhi over the last two days and returned to Bengaluru Sunday after consultations with party president and Union Home Minister Amit Shah on an impending Cabinet expansion on August 20, and with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on flood relief measures.
The phone-tapping scandal began as a fallout of an internal feud in the state police department for the Bengaluru city police commissioner’s post, sources said. However, it assumed political contours after an internal police inquiry into the alleged tapping of a senior officer’s phone revealed that phones of legislators and bureaucrats were probably being tapped illegally.
The alleged tapping of legislators’ phones is reported to have occurred in recent months when the Congress-JD(S) coalition was in power. Ahead of his Delhi visit last week, Yediyurappa had sought a report on the allegations from the Chief Secretary.
“The decision to hand over the phone-tapping investigation to the CBI taken by Yediyurappa is welcome. The country has, however, seen that the BJP has made the CBI a puppet and is misusing it as a weapon for vengeful politics,’’ Congress leader Siddaramaiah said.
Former CM and JD(S) leader Kumaraswamy said he does not fear a CBI probe, which will primarily look at actions pertaining to his tenure between May 2018 and July 2019. “Let them bring any big agency to conduct investigations. They can even ask (US President) Trump to send investigators to probe the matter but they will not find any evidence of wrongdoing by Kumaraswamy. Yediyurappa has announced a CBI probe citing demands by leaders like Siddaramaiah. I congratulate Yedyurappa on behalf of Siddaramaiah for giving so much respect to Siddaramaiah’s demands,’’ he said.
“In the coming days, we will know about the internal understanding among all these politicians. Let them investigate all phone tapping done through the police even from the time Yediyurappa was the chief minister in 2008 and when Siddaramaiah was CM for five years. I welcome this probe and there is no question of fear,’’ Kumaraswamy said.
The state Congress, however, questioned the move. “After toppling the coalition government by poaching MLAs and obtaining the chief minister’s chair through the back door, you (Yediyurappa) are behaving like a mafia figure. The CBI is working like an arm of the BJP under the Modi government. A false issue like phone tapping is being used as a tactic for vengeance politics,’’ the party’s state unit said on social media.
“The investigation should have been handed over to a state investigation agency. The investigation must cover aspects of corruption and serious criminal aspects like treachery,’’ Congress leader H K Patil said. Yediyurappa was earlier expected to hand over the probe to a state agency like the CID.
A DIG-rank officer, who conducted a preliminary probe into the alleged tapping and submitted a report to state police chief Neelamani Raju last week, had recommended a probe headed by a senior officer since the power to authorise phone taps and access to recordings vests with senior officers.