Sensational revelations in phone tapping case heats up Telangana politics

Hyderabad, May 30 (IANS) Two weeks after Lok Sabha elections, Telangana politics have again heated up with sensational disclosures in phone tapping case landing the main opposition, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS), in a tight spot.

The alleged confessions of a former police officer and three suspended officers, who were all arrested in the case, have triggered a war of words among ruling Congress, BRS and BJP.

The confessions of the accused have revealed startling details of the phone tapping operation conducted by the state’s Special Intelligence Bureau (SIB) under the previous government of the BRS.

The revelations about the modus operandi aimed at ensuring a third term for BRS in the Assembly elections, the targets of snooping and the alleged misuse of official machinery to cut financial support to opposition and to make ‘settlements’ in disputes have caused an upheaval in state politics.

The confession statements, reportedly recorded in March-April, have surfaced during the last four days.

It started with the confession of former Deputy Commissioner of Police (Task Force) P. Radha Kishan Rao.

He revealed that then Congress MP and present Chief Minister A. Revanth Reddy, dissidents within BRS, businesspersons and journalists were among the targets of phone tapping.

He claimed that T. Prabhakar Rao, then chief of the SIB, was in charge of the entire operation aimed at gathering data on anyone who seemed to be a threat to the government led by K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR).

He revealed that once an individual was flagged, the Intelligence Bureau’s deputy chief, Praneeth Kumar, was reportedly tasked with creating profiles to neutralise potential threats to the government.

He also made the sensational claim that KCR wanted to arrest BJP national general secretary B.L. Santhosh in BRS MLAs poaching case to force a compromise and get rid of the Enforcement Directorate case against his daughter K. Kavitha.

The former cop revealed that in the last week of October 2022, then SIB chief Prabhakar Rao discussed with him that CM KCR got information from one MLA Pilot Rohith Reddy that some persons claiming to be influential in BJP are in touch with him, asking him to leave BRS and join BJP along with some more MLAs.

KCR wanted to use it to corner BJP and he asked the SIB to put surveillance over those private persons and the MLA. As per the plan, the MLA enticed the private persons to come to a farm house near Moinabad, where spy cameras were fixed.

Radha Kishan Rao revealed that due to inefficiency of some Cyberabad police officers KCR did not succeed in his plan to arrest Santhosh.

A day after the former DCP’s statement, confessions of Additional Superintendent of Police Bhujanga Rao and Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police Tirupathanna also surfaced.

The two officials, who had earlier served in SIB, alleged that at the instance of BRS leaders, disputes between companies, businesspersons and VIPs were settled. Phones of not just opposition leaders, their family members, student leaders and journalists but even judges were tapped.

“The SOT in SIB under Praneeth Kumar directly supervised by Prabhakar Rao also used to monitor and put surveillance over student union leaders and caste organisation leaders who are critical of the BRS government, journalists and high court judges and advocates who are having important cases of government and party leaders; etc., to find out more details about their personal lives and their activities so that they can be influenced or countered at appropriate times,” said Bhujanga Rao, who also named a High Court judge.

The officials claimed that during the elections including the recent Assembly elections held in November 2023, funders of Congress and BJP were tracked and cash was seized from them.

They also alleged that businesspersons in real estate and construction sectors were arm twisted to provide financial support to BRS.

A realtor was forced to purchase electoral bonds to the tune of Rs 13 crore.

The SOT also kept surveillance on businesspersons, companies and VIPs having conflicts with their rivals and ‘settlements’ were made through alleged blackmailing tactics.

Praneeth Rao, who played a key role in the phone tapping operation, reportedly claimed that phones of about 1,200 people including political rivals, their family members and supporters, judges, journalists and business persons were tapped.

He revealed that they prepared profiles of political rivals of BRS with the help of a technological tool, provided by a private company.

Praneeth Rao, who was the first to be arrested in the case which came to light in March after the Congress party came to power, stated that 17 computers and special servers were used for phone tapping. As many as 56 personnel of SOT were used for the operation.

He also confessed that after Congress came to power, Prabhakar Rao directed him to stop phone tapping. He also allegedly directed him to destroy records before his resignation.

Following confession statements of the accused, the BJP was quick to demand arrest of KCR and a CBI probe into the entire matter.

BJP MP K. Laxman accused Revanth Reddy of taking a backstep in the case on direction of high command.

“Phone-tapping and misusing the police machinery by KCR is not a common crime but an anti-national act which should not be condoned. Anti-nationals should not be spared,” he said.

Reiterating the allegation that Congress and BRS are two sides of the same coin, Laxman believed that BRS will join the INDIA bloc anytime after the elections.

BJP general secretary Bandi Sanjay Kumar called KCR’s actions a disgrace to democracy.

“Phone tapping done under the BRS regime is worse than the emergency. This is a violation of Constitutional and human rights,” he said, adding that KCR’s fear of BJP is now out in the open.

The BJP leader believes that BRS chief is unfit to hold any constitutional position, including that of an MLA and needs to be banned from contesting elections.

“Despite clear evidence, why isn’t the Congress government arresting KCR? Why hasn’t the main accused, Prabhakar Rao, been brought back from the USA?” he asked.

The BRS, however, accused the Congress government of selectively leaking information on the alleged phone tapping issue to drag its leaders into the issue.

Former minister S. Niranjan Reddy wondered how the investigating officials could go out of way to link BRS leaders to the issue.

“Phone tapping, if at all has taken place, might have been done as part of the system,” he said and alleged that the government is mischievously leaking information.

He warned that if the same campaign continues to malign BRS leader, the party will take legal recourse.

The BRS leader asked if it is not a fact that phone tapping had taken place even during the regime of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He claimed that during the peak of Telangana movement, the phone of KCR too was allegedly tapped.

He took exception to the remark made by Chief Minister Revanth Reddy that KCR should undergo lie detector test in connection with phone tapping issue.

“It’s ridiculous that the Chief Minister, who was earlier caught red-handed while trying to buy an elected representative ahead of Council elections, is making value judgement on the phone tapping issue,” Niranjan Reddy said.



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