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Opinion | Shadow Boxing in Telugu Land After KCR Decides to Review Cash-For-Vote Case

Telangana government has tried to play it down pointing out that it needs to file a counter to a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, who has sought a CBI probe into the case.

TS Sudhir |

Updated:May 9, 2018, 8:54 AM IST
Opinion | Shadow Boxing in Telugu Land After KCR Decides to Review Cash-For-Vote Case
File photo of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao.
New Delhi: The decision of the Telangana government to review the cash-for-vote case that created a political furore in 2015 in the state, is anything but another routine departmental exercise. Given the political personalities involved with the case, the intention to revisit it is deeply political and acquires serious political connotations as it comes just a year ahead of elections.

On the face of it, the Telangana government has tried to play it down pointing out that it needs to file a counter to a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by YSR Congress legislator Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, who has sought a CBI probe into the case. It is the Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) that investigated the case.

The case pertains to the MLC election in Telangana in mid-2015. It was alleged that Revanth Reddy, then in the Telugu Desam, tried to bribe independent MLA Elvis Stephenson to cast his vote in favour of the TDP candidate in the MLC election. After Stephenson informed the ACB about the offer, the agency ensured the room in his home was bugged with several spy cameras and the entire transaction which showed Reddy laying out Rs 50 lakh in cash before Stephenson, was recorded. Reddy subsequently cooled his heels in Hyderabad central prison for a month before securing bail.

Chandrababu Naidu could have got away by claiming that Revanth Reddy was acting on his own but he had not bargained with his colleague's penchant for name dropping. During the entire taped audio conversation, Reddy went out of his way to show how close he is to the TDP chief and how he has his blessings and support in whatever he does.

That wasn't all. Another accused in the cash-for-vote scandal, Bishop Harry Sebastian, a member of the TDP's Christian cell, reportedly made Naidu speak to Stephenson. Then a voice, allegedly that of Naidu, assures Stephenson in Telugu saying, “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 subsequently moved out of Hyderabad along with his administration and many in the opposition alleged that was the quid pro quo with KCR to go slow on the case. In fact, both Jaganmohan Reddy and Pawan Kalyan have on more than one occasion, asked Naidu if it was the fear of CBI that was stopping him from pressing for special category status for Andhra Pradesh.

Eyebrows have been raised with the latest move by KCR. The YSR Congress wants the case to be put on fast track. After all, Jagan would not want to miss an opportunity to hit back at Naidu who taunts him as Mr Corrupt.

But while Naidu will have reason to worry, the latest move on the case is also a commentary on KCR. Ever since the Telangana CM has floated the idea of a Federal Front, it has been suspected that it is only with an eye to benefit the BJP. More so, when he has been meeting all party leaders who have a friendly equation with the Congress — from Mamata to Stalin to Akhilesh Yadav — to cobble together what he calls will be an anti-Congress, anti-BJP front. Why is he not trying to wean away NDA allies like the Shiv Sena or the Akali Dal, ask Congress leaders.

The equation between Naidu and Narendra Modi has touched rock bottom after the manner in which the TDP pulled out of the NDA. The Prime Minister has been made a villain in Andhra and deputy CM KE Krishnamurthy even put out a video message asking voters in Karnataka to vote for anyone but Modi. The TDP feels KCR is reviewing the case at the BJP's behest. The fact that this development took place a day after KCR's meeting with Telangana and Andhra governor ESL Narasimhan has added spice to the Telugu land politics. The Governor, a former IB man, is seen as being very close to the BJP leadership even though he was appointed by the UPA regime.

Two, it helps KCR fix his harsh critic Revanth Reddy who is now in the Congress. Reddy has been at the forefront, taking on KCR, accusing him of running family rule in Telangana. Revanth believes that this is a KCR-Modi jugalbandi to fix both Reddy and Naidu.

There is the Congress internal politics angle to this as well. Dyed-in-the-wool Congressmen aren't too pleased with Revanth's popularity and the clout he has with Rahul Gandhi and would love to see him being cut to size. There is a buzz that Reddy will be appointed as either the working president of the Telangana Congress or the Campaign Committee chairman. That would make him one of the serious contenders for the chief minister's post if the Congress comes to power next year.

Reddy's critics within the party would like to use this case to convey to the high command that at a time when the party in Karnataka is criticising BS Yeddyurappa, it cannot be seen giving an important party position to the turncoat.

(Author is a senior journalist. Views are personal)
| Edited by: Mayur Borah
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