The cash-for-vote scam in Telangana took a dramatic turn on Sunday with the release of an audio tape of a purported telephonic conversation between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and nominated Telangana legislator Elvis Stephenson.The Andhra government denied that it's Naidu's voice.
This is perhaps for the first time in India that a chief minister of a state has been tapped while allegedly trying to lure a legislator. Denying that it is Naidu's voice, the Andhra Pradesh government has taken the release of audio tape seriously and vowed to fight it legally, constitutionally and politically.
The new twist may create a constitutional crisis as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Telangana is planning to summon Naidu for questioning in the case. Hyderabad is the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Both Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) governments have taken up the issue with E.S.L. Narasimhan, who is the governor for both the Telugu states.
The audio tape was released three days after Telangana Home Minister N. Narasimha Reddy said the government has proof that Naidu spoke to Stephenson and some other MLAs of TRS to lure them to vote for TDP-BJP candidate in Telangana legislative council elections.
The audio tape was first played T News, a Telugu news channel owned by ruling TRS and was later picked up by others.
During the conversation, Naidu purportedly assured the nominated member that he is with him. "Our people briefed me. I am with you don't bother. For everything I am with you. What all they spoke we will honour," Naidu was heard as telling the legislator.
In swift developments on Sunday night, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao met Governor Narasimhan at Raj Bhavan while Naidu called a meeting with Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police J.V. Ramudu and other officials to take stock of the latest situation.
Rao's meeting with the governor, the second in three days, came minutes after the release of the audio tape.
Telangana TDP legislator A. Revanth Reddy was arrested by the ACB on May 31 when he was offering Rs.50 lakh to Stephenson to make him vote for TDP-BJP candidate in the elections to Telangana legislative council.
ACB, which had laid a trap on a complaint by Stephenson, also arrested Revanth Reddy's aides Sebastian Harry and Uday Simha.
TRS leaders have been alleging that Naidu is the mastermind in the scam and he should be booked.
The audio tape came to light a few hours after ACB questioned Revanth Reddy and two others for a second day. A city court had sent them to four-day custody of ACB.
Earlier in the day, Naidu met Narasimhan, who is governor for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The TDP chief reportedly complained to the governor about TRS government tapping his phone.
Meanwhile, Naidu's media advisor Prakala Prabhakar told reporters on Sunday night that the voice in the audio tape is not the voice of Naidu.
He said the government was taking the release of the audio tape seriously and will not keep quiet. "We will fight it legally, constitutionally and politically," he said.
He wanted to know from the TRS government as to how it got the audio tape. "If you have done telephone tapping, it is a crime and if you have recorded Mr. Chandrababu Naidu's voice on different occasions, tampered it and presented to mislead people that it is his conversation, it is also a crime," he said.
Naidu's aide wondered how the audio tape could be released as evidence when the same should be produced in the court, where the case is being heard. Prakala condemned the attitude of Telangana government towards Andhra Pradesh chief minister in the common capital. He said both the governments and both the chief ministers had equal rights in the common capital.
He pointed out that under section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the governor is responsible for law and order, protection of lives and property of people and vital installations in Hyderabad.
He alleged that the release of audio tape was a conspiracy to tarnish Naidu's image and disrupt the public meeting scheduled to be held in Guntur on Monday to mark TDP government's first year.
The media advisor said the government would go ahead with the meeting and fight the conspiracy.
Andhra Pradesh's Finance Minister and senior TDP leader Y. Ramakrishnudu said the audio tape was a proof that the TRS government was violating law by tapping phones.