The past one month has been a period of high-drama in the two Telugu states with phone-tapping and cash-for-votes scandals.
The trouble began with the announcement of elections for the Telangana State Legislative Councils. Here, it is worth mentioning that since the formation of a separate state, there have been defections from opposition parties into the ruling TRS. It reached such a proportion that a TDP legislator, while still staying with that party, picked a cabinet slot in the TRS government!
Adding fuel to the fire has been Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s (CBN) interest in Telangana and his wish to have TDP’s rule in both the Telugu states. There have been constant skirmishes with the two governments at loggerheads on various issues in the common capital. The haphazard distribution of existing government resources between the two states in the common capital has lead to utter chaos. The fact that both Chief Ministers are political rivals and have a history of differences in opinions and ideologies is adding more fuel to the fire.
In such a situation, a day before the Legislative elections in Telangana, when there were wide spread rumours of open horse trading on both sides, Revanth Reddy, an influential TDP legislator from Telangana was caught on camera offering bribe to a nominated legislator Stephenson for his support to TDP in the next day’s election. The legislator was brazen in blaming TRS as well as the Telangana Chief Minister and alleged that he was set up. However, he could neither explain why he was in the legislator’s house with Rs.50 lakh nor could he explain his interactions with him, all of which were caught on camera.
Almost on cue, T News, a channel controlled by TRS, released a video of the act and later an audio clip that had a voice resembling CBN in which he promised his support to the legislator in whatever step he takes on the day of the election. This was a coup. Never in the history of India was there such an open case of buying votes from a legislator with the Chief Minister of a neighbouring state caught on tape.
There are a few lingering questions, like how T News had the video and audio tapes even before the Police could verify the claims. Naidu has gone all out to claim that his voice was morphed and flew to New Delhi to explain the law and order situation in the state capital. There are three points to note one, a legislator of his is caught on camera offering a bribe and CBN: has not spoken a word about it till date; two, phone tapping needs prior approval before the state police can do it. There has been no proof that due process has been followed; three, how were the tappers leaked by a TRS-controlled channel even before their authenticity was verified. At every interview CBN has asked,
“But how can they tap my phone?”However, has never come out clean to say, “It is not my voice or I didn’t speak to Stephenson.” This has been the TRS’s line of attack, advising CBN to mind his business in his state than meddle with the state of affairs in Telangana.
The issue has reached a boiling point where the police officials from one state have filed cases against the other. This open-and-shut case of corruption is turning into no-holds-barred battle between two establishments, two elected governments and two neighbouring states.
The Central government has been non-committal, orally telling the Governor to sort out the public spat. The fact that TDP is a part of the NDA government makes matters murkier.
The cash-for-votes scam has turned the government machinery of both these states into two warring rival factions. The fact that Hyderabad is a common capital and that most government agencies of AP are situated here makes Hyderabad a virtual war zone.