Srinagar: A Gujarati man who managed to pass himself off as a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office during multiple Kashmir visits, came on the radar of suspicion last month when he visited Budgam, The Wire has learnt.
Sources said that Kiran Jagdishbhai Patel, a resident of Ahmedabad in Gujarat who is at present in the custody of J&K Police following his arrest on March 3, flaunted his fake credentials at Doodhpathri tourist resort last month where he identified himself as a senior PMO official and claimed to have “come for a high level meeting”.
“Local administration got suspicious because there was no official communication about any VIP visit or meeting for that day. Furthermore, he was flaunting his security cover in a manner which didn’t behoove a PMO official,” sources said.
Patel also reportedly “bragged” to the people present at the Doodhpathri resort, asking them to “convey to the Deputy Commissioner that I [Patel] shall get him transferred within a week’s time for not meeting me and violating my protocol.” After learning about the incident, sources said that the Budgam DC is the one who alerted the concerned officials.
On March 2, the Criminal Investigation Department, the counterintelligence wing of J&K Police which had verified Patel as a conman following the episode at Doodhpathri, tipped Srinagar police about his presence at Hotel Lalit Grand, a five-star property in the summer capital flanked by the iconic Dal Lake, where Patel used to stay as a state guest during his visits.
Sources said that a police team of Srinagar district led by a Superintendent of Police confronted Patel at the hotel, “As his replies were found suspicious, he was taken to police station [in] Nishat wherein he admitted his crime. Ten fake visiting cards and two mobile phones were seized from him,” a J&K police spokesperson said, adding that three more similar cases have been registered against Patel in police stations in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad and Baroda.
A picture of Patel’s visiting card circulated on social media which describes him as ‘Additional Director (Strategy and Campaigns) PMO, New Delhi’ and also mentions his purported Delhi address at Meena Bagh flats on Janpath Road. A prominent national emblem in golden colour adorns the centre of the visiting card. Two contact numbers provided without any description on the card are mobile phone numbers.
According to officials, Patel visited Kashmir on at least three occasions during which the administration provided him with a Z-plus security cover, which is reserved for persons most at risk, like serving cabinet ministers, chief ministers and business tycoons like Mukesh Ambani. Sources said that a bulletproof car with two to three escort vehicles were deployed as part of his security detail when he travelled to Baramulla and Budgam districts. He also visited forward areas near the Line of Control in Baramulla and posted photos at an army installation at the Kaman Post in Uri sector on social media.
Both the deputy commissioners of Budgam and Baramulla refused to answer queries from The Wire about the stated purpose of his visits and the nature of the meetings he is believed to have held with the district administration officials. He has also met a young BJP leader in Srinagar, The Wire has learnt.
A video posted on Twitter, where Patel describes himself as “PHD (Commonwealth Uni, Virginia) MBA (IIM TRICHY), M. Tech (Computer Science) , B. E. Computer (L D Engineering), Thinker, Strategist, Analyst, Campaign Manager”, shows him walking on the snow-covered slopes of Gulmarg wearing black shades amid a heavy presence of security personnel. The audio of the 73 second video has been replaced with the patriotic song ‘Dil diya hai jaan bhi denge’ from the 1986 Bollywood film Karma. Patel is believed to have held a meeting in Gulmarg with the stated purpose of “reviewing the tourism sector.”
॥ जय हिन्द ॥ pic.twitter.com/WCEZxlDHId
— Dr. Kiran J Patel (@bansijpatel) February 27, 2023
“The scenic valley of Gulmarg is a little piece of paradise cocooned by the mighty snow-clad mountains of the Pir Panjal range. Emerald green meadows, deep ravines and pine-forested hills make this meadow of flowers (the meaning of #Gulmarg) an ethereal sight,” he tweeted on February 26.
Patel’s accounts on Instagram and Twitter portray him as a BJP supporter. On Twitter, Patel has a paid Twitter Blue tick and he is followed by Hitendrasinh Rajput, who also has a paid blue tick and identifies himself as the spokesperson of “VHP Gujarat”. RW Voice, a legacy verified account with links to the BJP, also follows Patel on Twitter.
Several videos and pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been shared by the Ahmadabad resident on his Instagram account where he describes himself: “I Am Engineer…!!!!”. The description also links to the www.iammodified.com website which is run by supporters of the BJP. The account with 893 followers has more than dozen videos and photos showing Patel in Kashmir, mostly under security cover, that date back to October 28, 2022.
An official in J&K administration, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the security cover “lent him an aura of authority”. “It is incredible and baffling at the same time how he took the civil and security administration for a ride during his visits without raising any suspicion,” the official said.
While Patel’s cover was blown earlier this month, the official claimed that he was on the radar for quite some time now. One theory has it that Patel had been lately asking for a mobile-signal jammer to accompany his escort while travelling in Kashmir, a demand which “didn’t sit well” with the security establishment. Another theory goes that he was laying a trap to defraud people with the promise of jobs in lieu of money.
Rahul Tahiliani, a content creator, claimed that Patel was a member of the BJP. Tahiliani shared a dozen photos of Patel on his legacy-verified Twitter account. One photo shows Patel’s BJP membership card along with the membership number. A second photo shows Patel wearing ‘NaMo Again 2019’ saffron colour tee.
Deepal Trivedi, founder of Vibes of India, a Gujarat based media company, said on Twitter that Patel had claimed that he was one of the main brains behind PM Modi’s ‘Chai pe Charcha’ campaign in 2014. “He lives in Maninagar area in #Ahmedabad. A staunch RSS man, during #Covid, he had started a group to help out pp (people) claiming that PM Modi had sent him since Rupani wasn’t doing enough,” she said.
Interestingly, he also claimed to have been oneof the organisers of the G 20summit recently!
His nickname is Bansi and he says he helped PM @narendramodi win his election from Maninagar in 2002. Always b hosting of his @RSSorg connections, he said he moved to Delhi after 2014. https://t.co/lyrKOCPG6W pic.twitter.com/h3xgbX9ktJ
— Deepal.Trivedi #Vo! (@DeepalTrevedie) March 17, 2023
“Interestingly, he also claimed to have been one of the organisers of the G 20summit recently! His nickname is Bansi and he says he helped PM @narendramodi win his election from Maninagar in 2002. Always b hosting of his @RSSorg connections, he said he moved to Delhi after 2014,” she said in another tweet.
The J&K police has now set up a team to shed light on Patel’s Kashmir travels. “A team of SP East Srinagar, SDPO Nehru Park, SHO Nishat are leading the investigation. The accused…is in police remand up to 17-03-2023. Many relevant persons have been examined in this case. Case is at initial stage of investigation. Further details of this case will be shared later on,” the police spokesperson said.
Patel’s lawyer, advocate Rehan Gowhar, told NDTV that two more people accompanying Patel were set free by police, alleging a political conspiracy behind the arrest. The NDTV report said Amit Hitesh Pandiya and Jay Sitapara from Gujarat, and Trilok Singh from Rajasthan, were staying at the hotel with Patel.