July 06, 2020
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Another 'Cash For Vote' Scandal

In every public rally, Naidu stressed upon "clean" governance. The arrest of Revanth has come as a major blow to his image.

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Another 'Cash For Vote' Scandal
Another 'Cash For Vote' Scandal

Elections in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are among the most 'costly’ in the country. In April, 2014, the Election Commission had announced that out of Rs 195 crore of cash seized during the general election, Rs 118 crore were seized from Andhra Pradesh alone. The point got reamphasised when a team from Telangana ACB ( Anti-Corruption Bureau) caught a Telugu Desam MLA 'red handed' while handing over Rs 50 lakh in cash for buying the vote of a nominated Anglo-Indian member of the Assembly for electing a TD nominee to the Legislative Council. The MLA was promised Rs five crore for his vote. 

Chandrababu Naidu's election campaign last year had relentlessly focused on corruption as he urged voters to shun the scam-tainted Jagan Mohan Reddy. And because in every public rally, the HiTech messiah had stressed upon "clean" governance, the arrest has come as a major blow to his image. So taken aback was Naidu that he admitted to officials in Vijayawada that he had not slept for two days after the arrest. 

It's been difficult for Naidu to let go of Hyderabad. It's like an old flame which always burns bright in Naidu's heart. This might be one reason why Naidu so desperately wanted the Telugu Desam to win at least one seat in the Telangana upper House. Six seats were in contention and TD was hoping to win one. 

Even as Revanth was protesting his innocence to reporters, the ACB set about releasing video tapes of its sting on Revanth. One showed initial negotiations between Revanth and Stephenson in which Revanth frequently referred to his "Boss" who reportedly sanctioned the Rs 5 crore deal. The second tape was of Revanth handing over Rs 50 lakh in cash to Stephenson. The rest of the amount, Rs 4.5 crore, would follow soon after, Stephenson was assured. 

"If Rs 5 crore were being offered to a nominated MLA whose vote plays only one small role in the MLC election, can we even imagine how much Chandrababu Naidu has spent in totality," asks YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, after submitting a letter to Governor E S L Narasimhan on the scandal. "Where did the money come from? Why does Naidu, the CM of Andhra Pradesh, need to spend so much in a State which is not even his,” asked Jagan, with obvious glee. 

While there is no real threat to Naidu at the moment, if at any stage of ACB's investigations, proof is found against him, the legal ramifications are huge. But he has put up a brave face and on June 2 at Vijayawada, Naidu claimed the "unsavoury incident was a conspiracy against the TD. However, not once has he or the party hinted at any disciplinary action against Revanth. In fact, TD leader Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy calls 45-year-old Revanth a gunde unna chinna kurradu (Brave young man) who has been framed and sent to jail. 

The Congress says KCR is equally guilty in the matter. "While we strongly condemn what Revanth Reddy has done, we equally condemn KCR who has been encouraging defections," says Congress leader Mhd Shabbir Ali. 

Congress leader Jana Reddy uses the Telugu phrase, Dorikinivaadu donga, dorakanavaadu Dora (The one who's caught is the thief, the one who isn't, is the king) to stress the same point.

The TRS Assembly strength which was 63 after the 2014 polls has now risen to 76. Six of the new entrants are TD MLAs. Three Telugu Desam men are now ministers in the KCR Cabinet. Kadiam Srihari is Deputy CM (he joined TRS before polls), Talasani Srinivas Yadav (Minister for Cinematography and Commercial Taxes) and Tummala Nageswara Rao (Minister for Roads and Buildings). 

But KCR's son and IT Minister K T Rama Rao says, "the TD is trying to save its skin by mud-slinging. The Revanth episode is a new low in politics. Chandrababu Naidu who was talking about how 'MLAs were being bought like sheep' should now own up."

How the TD MLA was stung...

The ACB used two iPhones (of 4 series). In the first meeting, an iPhone was used to record the video tape at the TRS MLA Stephenson’s house in Bhoiguda. In the second meeting in Vijayapuri Colony, when Revanth gave the cash, one iPhone was placed on a sofa opposite Revanth. The phone was plugged into a charger to avoid suspicion. The second iPhone was held by Stephenson. Three IC Sony audio recorders were placed in the MLA's pocket. Key chain, pen, table and wall clock cameras were also used to nail Revanth.

This story is a web extra and does not appear in the print version of the magazine.

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