Bengaluru Police seeking man linked to BJP poll management firm

Shashank Bharadwaj is said to be absconding since February this year, when the Congress filed an FIR about the hacking of its website. Four have been arrested

Karnataka police (photo: Getty Images)
Karnataka police (photo: Getty Images)

NH Digital

Bengaluru Police are on the lookout for one Shashank Bharadwaj, associated with Varahe Analytics, a poll strategy firm engaged by the BJP in Karnataka. This is in connection with allegations of hacking the website of Karnataka Congress in February this year.

Bharadwaj, who is absconding, is believed to have made a payment to a firm called M/S VET FAB Technologies, based in Hassan, to hack the official website of the Karnataka Congress and set up a fake website that targets the Congress ahead of the assembly elections in the state.

While the FIR was lodged in February, the BJP lost the election in May. This week Bengaluru police arrested three people, including directors of the said company, for developing the fake website and uploading defamatory content and disinformation.

Varahe Analytics had been hired by the BJP for formulating its election campaign and strategy in the state.

Naming the arrested people as Dharnesh Jain, Siddharth and Venkatesh, besides another unnamed employee, a press note from the Hassan police issued on Saturday, 12 August, claims to have confiscated three mobile phones, a laptop, a credit card and other incriminating documents.

The press note also said that some incriminating WhatsApp chats have been recovered.

The official website of the Karnataka Congress, had disappeared one fine morning in February, with visitors seeing the message: “This account has been suspended. Contact your hosting provider for more information." The hackers had infiltrated the domain's server ID too, rendering it “suspended”. This digital attack was the third in less than 24 hours.

Simultaneously a fake website,, was set up with photos of Congress leaders. The website was designed to resemble the official website but described the party as “Communal, Criminal and Corrupt”. Photos of Congress leaders were used with intent to slander, as alleged by Priyank Kharge, chairman of the KPCC Communications Cell, in an official complaint to the Bengaluru police commissioner.

A fake letter with a forged signature of the present chief minister, Siddaramaiah, was also hosted on the spoof website. The letter, addressed to Sonia Gandhi and written in Kannada, was printed on a letterhead resembling the Congress's official letterhead. It urged Sonia Gandhi to log in to the fake website, highlighting infighting within the Congress.

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