Srinagar: Alleged Gujarat-based conman ‘Dr’ Kiran J. Patel’s “officer-like attitude”, sharp dressing style, and purported connections with the upper echelons of the BJP served him well while he posed as a top PMO official in J&K — until his limited knowledge of bureaucracy is believed to have betrayed him.
His failure to differentiate between an IAS and IPS officer cemented suspicions and helped blow his cover, intelligence sources told ThePrint.
Currently lodged in Srinagar’s Central jail, Patel has been accused of cheating, forgery, and impersonation, all charges that he has refuted as being “baseless”, according to reports. Meanwhile, at least three older cases of alleged cheating lodged against Patel in Gujarat have also surfaced, with a fresh FIR being filed in one last week.
Two Gujarat businessmen who allegedly travelled with Patel — Amit Hitesh Pandya and Jay Sitapara — have been questioned by police too. The former’s father, Hitesh Pandya, resigned from his post as additional public relations officer in Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel’s office last Friday over the scandal.
Yet, for several months, Kiran Patel allegedly managed to hoodwink the Jammu & Kashmir police and civil administration by introducing himself as the additional director (strategy & campaign) in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
During four visits between October 2022 and March 2023, he travelled around the Union territory as a VVIP, with Z-plus-equivalent security cover, including bulletproof vehicles, gunmen, and escort vehicles, although this is said to have never been sanctioned through the prescribed official channels.
Patel was also provided access to some of the most strategically sensitive locations in J&K, including Uri near the Line of Control, where he clicked pictures, made reels, and posted them on social media.
He stayed at five-star properties, took “briefings” from officers, and met business owners across districts. He apparently made a lot of promises too.
Sources in the J&K intelligence establishment said Patel promised business owners generous “investments” for the development of Kashmir and held out the carrot of “plum postings” to officers who obliged him with a security cover without due clearance from the necessary authorities.
These officers, sources said, included Pulwama deputy commissioner (DC) Baseer-Ul-Haq Chaudhary and Kashmir senior superintendent of police (security) Sheikh Zulfikar Azad.
For a while, though, there seemed to be little reason to doubt Patel’s claims of knowing the top BJP leadership through his Gujarat connections, or questioning that he had a say in “transfers and postings”, sources added. He reportedly even showed off photos of himself with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders.
“He walked around very confidently and boasted about his contacts. No one wants to irk a senior officer who has strong political connections. He convinced the officers that he could help them get better postings in the department, so everyone obliged him,” an intelligence source said.
The web that Patel had spun began to unravel during his last visit to the Valley earlier this month, when Budgam deputy commissioner Syed Fakharuddin Hamid became suspicious of Patel’s credentials and alerted seniors in the security grid.
Patel was arrested on 3 March and his bail appeal was denied by a Srinagar trial court last Thursday on the grounds that he could hinder the investigation if released from jail.
But questions still linger. How did a ‘conman’ take the J&K administration for a ride? What were his connections? What was his motive? How exactly did the cover slip? ThePrint travelled to Srinagar to unearth Patel’s story.
Also read: ‘Bulletproof car, PMO visiting card, US PhD’: How Gujarat ‘conman’ duped J&K officials for 4 months
RSS connection, a phone call, ‘quick’ security cover
Kiran J. Patel wore many hats, from businessperson to web designer to chairperson of an NGO. Sources said he also worked closely with a section of BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) members in Gujarat to organise events, campaigns, and rallies.
Officers privy to the current investigation told ThePrint that Patel used his RSS connections to get in touch with the civil administration in Kashmir.
The source cited earlier said that it has been learnt that, in October 2022, Patel asked a Rajasthan-based RSS pracharak called Trilok Singh to help him connect with local businesspeople in Kashmir.
Singh apparently often used to visit J&K for the Amarnath Yatra and knew the DC of Pulwama.
“Trilok Singh gave Patel the number of DC Pulwama and also called him to facilitate his (Patel’s) travel. Trilok told the DC that Patel is a connected man and knows the top leadership in the BJP,” the source said.
When Patel reached Srinagar, he contacted the DC and the two met in a hotel, the source added. It was here that Patel purportedly brandished his ‘credentials’ as a PMO official, complete with forged Government of India visiting cards and pictures of himself with top BJP leaders.
Patel is also said to have told the DC that he had to travel around Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir to take stock of development and meet senior officers.
“The DC did not care to check. To facilitate (Patel’s) travel across Kashmir, he called the SSP (security), who also belongs to his village in Jammu asking him to provide security. The process was done without consulting their higher-ups,” the source alleged.
The usual protocol for seeking a security cover has several steps. The applicant must first submit a request in writing to the chief secretary, with a copy marked to the director general of police (DGP).
The DGP then apprises the additional director general (ADGP) of security of the next steps. It is only after this and due checks that the SP (security) provides the security cover. None of this was followed in the current case.
After successfully obtaining security on his first visit, Patel grew emboldened and on his subsequent trip in early February, he directly contacted the DC and requested security for his attendance at a medical conference in Pulwama, intelligence sources said. His request was granted.
On this second visit, Patel reportedly arrived with two businessmen from Gujarat. The same source said that this was part of Patel’s “strategy” to impress the businessmen.
“He wanted to show the businessmen that he is influential. And he succeeded in doing that since he had so much security with him,” the source said.
A high-level inquiry has been initiated against the two officials who facilitated the security cover and they have been asked to provide an explanation. However, no action has been taken against them to date.
When asked about Patel’s involvement in the RSS, the organisation’s Gujarat prant prachar pramukh (state publicity in-charge) Vijay Thakkar denied ever having met him.
“Patel never came to any of our shakhas. He may claim that he was associated with the RSS, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Thakkar said.
“He may have organised some events but that would not have been as a member of the RSS. I have been here for over 20 years, and I never heard of him. Had he been an active member, I would have known,” he added.
Mask begins to slip — ‘body language, overacting’
For his third trip to Kashmir, in the last week of February, Patel brought his family along and visited popular tourist destinations such as Dal lake, Gulmarg, and Doodhpathri. He was provided with full security coverage throughout the trip, but it was at this time that his mask began to slip.
A second intelligence source said that while visiting Doodhpathri in Budgam district, Patel informed local authorities of his interest in acquiring land to construct a Swaminarayan temple. He purportedly contacted the station house officer (SHO) to arrange a meeting with officials from the Jammu & Kashmir Tourist Development Corporation (JKTDC) and requested the presence of the tehsildar and naik.
During this “meeting”, Patel also reportedly discussed plans to attract investment to the region by encouraging the construction of hotels.
However, at some point, his demeanour changed, the source claimed, and Patel started yelling at the Budgam DC about why the sub-divisional magistrate (SDM) did not come to greet him.
This, the DC thought, was “odd”, the source added.
“The DC got suspicious as he thought why would the officer ask a DM or an SDM to come and greet him and be at this discussion? The DC then started noticing Patel’s body language. Moreover, the way he was talking to officers, it appeared that he was not aware of the hierarchies in designations,” the source said.
Sensing something was amiss, Budgam DC Syed Fakharuddin Hamid contacted the state crime investigation department (CID) to check Patel’s credentials.
“His overacting is what gave him away,” the second source said. The CID soon discovered there was no Kiran Patel at the PMO and even the “designation” he claimed to have did not exist.
‘Tried to flush cards, got aggressive’ — the arrest
On 2 March, Patel returned to Kashmir and checked into the Lalit Grand Palace, a heritage hotel in Srinagar. After that, it wasn’t business as usual.
Soon after Patel’s arrival at the hotel, two police personnel arrived to question him— Mansha Beig, sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Nehru Bagh, and Shree Ram, SP (East Srinagar).
When the officers asked him questions regarding his batch, where he’d been posted, and whether he was an IAS or IPS officer, Patel fumbled over the answers.
“He had no idea about postings and appointments,” a third intelligence source said. “This made it very clear that he was bluffing.”
Patel’s subsequent behaviour only heightened suspicions.
“He started raising his voice, got aggressive and told the officers, ‘How dare you ask these questions to such a senior officer, how dare you speak to me like this’,” the third source said.
The officers, however, did not budge and asked him to come with them to the police station.
Patel then quickly went to the washroom and tried to flush incriminating documents, but was caught red-handed, the source said.
“He tried to flush the visiting cards to destroy evidence, but luckily the cards did not flush and were then recovered from the pot,” he said.
Patel was subsequently taken to the police station where he “confessed” to the crime after being questioned at length, the source said.
‘Bag contracts, take commissions’ — the motive
During questioning, Patel told the police that his motive to come to Kashmir and portray himself as a senior officer was to “bag contracts” for Gujarat-based businesspersons and to then charge a high commission from them, intelligence sources said.
His plan, the third source explained, was to build a network among hoteliers and businesspersons in Kashmir and then use his fake identity to obtain projects from them. The source added he planned to give these projects to Gujarat businesses in return for a commission.
“He is a scamster. He went around meeting officers in Gulmarg and Budgam saying that he wants to bring in investors, build hotels, and bring development to Kashmir,” the third source said.
“He did this so he could come in touch with businessmen in this sector and expand his network. His motive was to procure land at cheap prices, using his fake influence, and then make money out of it. This is why he also got two businessmen from Gujarat for one of these trips.
“He made those businessmen believe that he is an influential person in Kashmir and could help them bag great deals on land,” he added. “He is very notorious and has several cases of cheating against him in Gujarat.”
To build his base in the Valley, Patel also met local leaders of the BJP, including Mubina Akhtar and party media in-charge of Kashmir Manzoor Bhat, the source said.
In his blue-tick verified account on Twitter, Patel introduces himself as “PHD (Commonwealth University Virginia), MBA (IIM TRICHY), M.Tech (Computer Science), B.E. Computer (LD Engineering, Thinker, Strategist, Analyst, Campaign Manager”.
In several of the pictures he posted on Instagram, Patel can be seen posing in front of the iconic Clock Tower at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk and along the banks of the Dal Lake. He also posted videos of himself in a black bulletproof Scorpio with escort vehicles in tow.
‘Bungalow grab, duped investors’ — skeletons tumble out
Patel’s ‘performance’ as a top PMO official is not the only time that he has allegedly tried to use false pretences for personal gain, intelligence sources said. In Gujarat, he has been booked in at least three cases of cheating, criminal conspiracy, and impersonation.
In one case registered in Ahmedabad, Patel allegedly used his fabricated “PMO” connections to try and usurp a senior citizen’s bungalow. A fresh FIR was lodged against him in this matter last Wednesday under IPC sections for cheating, criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, and impersonating a public servant.
According to the FIR, Patel tried to grab a bungalow in a posh locality in Ahmedabad by winning the trust of its owner through false claims of being a “Class 1 officer in the PMO” and having close relations with politicians, including the Prime Minister.
In August 2019, a city-based decorator had lodged a complaint in Vadodara against Patel and two others for allegedly duping him of Rs 1 crore. Patel also allegedly threatened the complainant with dire consequences, claiming he was politically well-connected.
Another complaint of cheating and breach of trust was registered against Patel in Bayad town of Arvalli district in August 2020. According to the FIR, Patel had convinced three people in Bayad to invest their savings in tobacco and cattle feed businesses for good returns. The investors alleged that Patel swindled them out of Rs 1.75 crore.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
Also read: Tricolour at Lal Chowk, Khelo India: How ‘conman’ Kiran Patel used social media to project ‘official image