Bengaluru: Days after charges of phone tapping during the previous coalition government headed by JD(S) surfaced, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Sunday said he will order a CBI probe into the allegations citing demands by several political leaders including Congress.
While former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, who headed the coalition government said he was ready for a probe by even an “international agency”, his alliance partner the Congress, however, seemed to be a divided house.
“On the telephone tapping issue. Several leaders, including Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah, have said it should be probed and truth should come out, so I have decided to order a CBI probe. Tomorrow itself I will order the probe,” Yediyurappa told reporters here.
He also said it was the expectation of the people of the state that a detailed inquiry should be made and the culprits punished.
Yediyurappa’s announcement comes amid signs that the scandal was gaining political steam ever since disqualified JD(S) MLA AH Vishwanath, who served as JD(S) state president and turned rebel later, last week dropped the political bomb, accusing the HD Kumaraswamy government of tapping phones and spying on more than 300 people, including him.
Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, M Mallikarjuna Kharge and Home Minister in the alliance government MB Patil, had sought a probe while another key party leader and former minister DK Shivakumar has rejected the snooping charges and appeared to side with Kumaraswamy.
According to reports, phones of those close to Siddaramaiah, who was the then coalition coordination committee chief, too had come under the watch.
Several BJP leaders, including former Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar, have directly accused Kumaraswamy of being behind the episode to save his government which was then rocked by dissidence within.
The coalition government ultimately collapsed last month with Kumaraswamy losing the trust vote in the assembly.
Reacting to the Chief Minister announcing a CBI probe, Kumaraswamy, who has already denied the charges, said “Let them do any inquiry, whether it is a CBI inquiry or any other agency of international standard, or let them talk to Trump (US President Donald Trump) and get it inquired through some one from his side.”
Kumaraswamy also hit out at the electronic media for its coverage on the issue, saying no one can do anything to him and alleged that their intention and attempts were to keep him away from people of the state.
Stating that he was not aware as to why his name was linked to the phone tapping case, Kumaraswamy stressed, “If I was involved I would have panicked, I’m open…. There is not even an iota… to point fingers at me.”
The JD(S) leader also asked Yediyurappa to bring BJPs previous tenure in the government and also that of Siddaramaiah under the ambit of the CBI probe.
While Congress Legislature Party leader Siddaramaiah has welcomed the CBI probe, hoping that the BJP does not use the central investigating agency for “political vendetta”, the Congress on its official Twitter handle has said that telephone tapping “was a bundle of lies” and a conspiracy for hate politics.
“I welcome the decision of @BSYBJP to hand over the phone tapping case to CBI. But in the past @BJP4India has used CBI as its puppet to unleash its venomous political vendetta. Hope @BJP4Karnataka leaders does not have similar intentions this time,” Siddaramaiah tweeted on Sunday following the announcement of probe by the chief minister.
Asserting that allegations of ‘Operation Kamala’ being done in Karnataka are as serious as charges of phone tapping, he said in another tweet “I urge @BSYBJP to order CBI investigation into alleged Operation Kamala also. I heard they acted on my advice in phone tapping case & I hope they act on this issue as well.”
However, the state Congress in a tweet termed phone tapping as “lies” and a conspiracy for hate politics.
Alleging that Yediyurappa was behaving like an “underground criminal” after becoming the chief minister in an “immoral” way by “Operation Kamala” through the backdoor, the party in a tweet said, “In Modi administration CBI is working as a frontal unit of the BJP. Phone tapping is a (bundle of) lies and a conspiracy for hate politics.”
Hitting out at the Congress, senior BJP leader R Ashoka expressed surprise over differences of opinion on the phone tapping probe within the grand old party.
Pointing out that several Congress leaders, including Siddaramaiah, had demanded a probe, he said, “Before handing over the probe they demanded an inquiry… now they are blaming the chief minister, it is not right.”
“Without even knowing who was behind the tapping, they are accusing us of indulging in vendetta politics. None of us know who is behind it, it should come out through the probe,” Ashoka added.
Vishwanath too hit out at the Congress for its confusing stand on the CBI probe into the scandal and said the party was a divided house now, with several groups within. Without naming Kumaraswamy, he once again alleged that the then Chief Minister should be aware of tapping as intelligence directly comes under him. Let’s see who are all involved,” he said.