Phone tapping scandal gives BJP a stick against JD(S)
Deputy chief minister CN Ashwath Narayan and state revenue minister R Ashok on Friday went on the offensive against the previous Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government, accusing it of tapping the phone of even a Vokkaliga seer.
Allegations of phone tapping by the previous government are being investigated. Former Bengaluru Police Commissioner Alok Kumar was questioned on Friday by the Central Bureau of Investigation, which had searched his house on Thursday.
The phone tapping scandal broke out after an audio clip was leaked purportedly of the current Bengaluru Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao lobbying for the post. An investigation was launched into this, but was enlarged after disqualified former MLA AH Vishwanath claimed that many politicians’ phones had also been tapped on the instructions of former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy.
Though investigations are underway and the CBI has not revealed any information about the probe. Ashok and Ashwath Narayan went on the offensive against the JD(S) for its role in the alleged tapping of phones. The two BJP leaders belong to the Vokkaliga caste, which is dominant in the southern parts of the state.
Both alleged that the JD(S) had asked for the phone of Nirmalananda Swamy of the Adichunchanagiri Math to be tapped. The math is central to the Vokkaliga community. However, the family of former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and the JD(S) party also enjoy support of the community.
Speaking to the press, Ashok said it was a crime to tap phones. “Phone tapping is a big crime even from British times,” he said. “It is true that they have tapped, no matter what anybody says,” Ashok said. “It has been proven now because instances have come out in the media.”
Ashok said local police officials had admitted that they had tapped phones. “What pains me is that politicians’ phones can be tapped, but how dare they tap the phone of Nirmalananda Swamy of Adichunchanagiri. They should be ashamed and they should be punished,” he added.
Deputy chief minister Ashwath Narayan said the Vokkaliga community would know to what extent the former chief minister Kumaraswamy had stooped once the investigations are complete. “The previous chief minister will have to answer for these things,” he said. “It is a cognisable offence.”
“They had even tapped the phones of the swamy, his driver, his assistant and this has come out in the press,” Ashwath Narayan said. “However, they will deny it because it has come in the media. There is no doubt that these charges are true. They tapped the swamy’s phone like he was some smuggler,” he said.
Repeated attempts to reach Kumaraswamy through phone calls and messages for his response went unanswered.
Political analyst Narayana A, who is a faculty member at the Azim Premji University, said it was clear that the BJP was out to discredit the Vokkaliga first family. “However, I doubt that they will make much headway with the phone tapping issue,” he said.
Elaborating on his observation, Narayana said, it was an open secret that governments tapped phones. “The BJP is desperately trying to make inroads into the Vokkaliga community, but even assuming the phone tapping is proved it is unlikely to have much impact,” he added.
“The BJP will need either a much better negative message against the Deve Gowda family or a strong positive message to woo the community,” Narayana said. “It is true that there has been some erosion in the JD(S) support, especially of the youth, but it will take something bigger for the BJP to benefit from this,” he added.
In the southern old Mysuru region, where the Vokkaligas are dominant, the political battle is between the JD(S) and the Congress and the BJP comes a distant third in the region. However, the party’s national president Amit Shah is believed to have made it a priority for the party to make inroads into the region, and is an area of focus for the current state unit president of the party Nalin Kumar Kateel.