Ex-Senior Cop's Claims About Telangana Phone-Tap Case, KCR's Party's Role

2 weeks ago 16

Hyderabad:

In an explosive revelation in the Telangana phone tapping and snooping row, ex-Deputy Commissioner of Police P Radhakrishna Rao has claimed devices belonging to media industry bigwigs, retired cops, and politicians (including from then-ruling BRS) were hacked and monitored.

This was allegedly part of a well-funded and secretive team set up before the November state election to keep tabs on then Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao's political rivals. The snooping operation was supposed to create a dossier to manage possible threats; in a twist, Mr Rao's BRS was thumped by the Congress anyway, winning only 39 (down from 88 in 2018) of the state's 119 seats.

Arrested on March 29 from his home in Hyderabad's Banjara Hills, Mr Rao has reportedly admitted to former colleagues that he was part of this alleged illegal enterprise, which may have snooped on a prominent people, including media personalities Narendra Choudary of NTV and Vemuri Radhakrishna of ABN, retired police officer RS Praveen Kumar, sitting Warangal MP Kadiyam Srihari, and former BRS minister Patnam Mahender Reddy and his wife, Sunita Reddy. Patnam Mahender Reddy has now shifted to the Congress and was the party's candidate for the Malkajgiri seat in the 2024 election.

Opposition party leaders - such as the Congress' Saritha Thirupathaiah, who contested and lost the Gadwal Assembly seat last year to the BRS' BK Mohan Reddy - were reportedly also targeted.

Radhakrishna Rao reportedly also claimed T Prabhakar Rao, then chief of the Special Intelligence Bureau, was in charge of the op, which gathered data on anyone who seemed to be a threat to the then-ruling BRS. Once an individual was flagged, the Intelligence Bureau's deputy chief, Praneeth Kumar, was reportedly tasked with creating profiles to manage possible 'threats' to the BRS' hold on power.

The alleged snooping did not only target political leaders or public figures. Mr Rao said businesspersons in the real estate and construction industries were also tracked to establish their affiliations.

As rumours of the snooping spread, bureaucrats, members of judiciary, and political figures avoided direct phone calls and, instead, used encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp and Signal.

READ | Ex-Intel Bureau Chief Is Accused No 1 In Phone-Tapping Row

In response, Prabhakar Rao and his group allegedly tracked communications over internet calls by acquiring and examining Internet Protocol Data Records (IPDRs). This has now triggered fresh moral and legal concerns over the use of public resources and technology for personal or political gain.

One particularly unsettling aspect concerned iNews journalist Sravan Kumar.

According to Mr Rao, Mr Kumar spoke directly T Prabhakar Rao during the state election in October and November last year; this meeting is said to have been at the request of the T Harish Rao, a BRS leader who was then a member of the cabinet and is nephew of ex-Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.

Information about opposition leaders and their financial backers was reportedly sent to the Intelligence Bureau via Mr Kumar, and this was used to target rivals during cash seizure ops. Mr Kumar reportedly also helped Praneeth Kumar wage trolling campaigns against the BRS' detractors.

Radhakrishna Rao made other startling claims in April.

READ | Senior Cop Arrested In Telangana Phone Tap Row Makes Big Claim

He alleged cash had been moved in official vehicles in the 2018 and 2023 Assembly polls, and gave the Munugode by-poll as an example. He claimed Rs 3.5 crore had been confiscated from people linked to Komatireddy Raj Gopal Reddy, who contested the by-poll on a BJP ticket. He lost to the BRS' KP Reddy but then jumped to the Congress for the 2023 election and won the seat.

The Telangana phone-tapping case involves the alleged gathering of electronic data not just for political intelligence, but to blackmail leaders, and even private companies and Tollywood celebrities.

Congress leader N Uttam Kumar Reddy told NDTV all this happened with the knowledge of the leadership of the previous Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) government. "It is only a matter of time before they (BRS) leaders come under the ambit of the investigation," Mr Reddy said.

READ | Those Involved In Phone-Tapping Will Be Jailed, Warns Revanth Reddy

Several other Telangana police officers are being investigated in connection with this case.

The list of individuals whose devices were reportedly monitored include Congress leader and current Chief Minister Revanth Reddy. As many as one lakh phone calls were reportedly tapped.