Setback for Chandrababu Naidu as court orders re-probe

Chandrababu Naidu Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu

The notorious cash-for-vote scam has come back to hound Telugu Desam Party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu after a Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) court ordered re-investigation into the case on Monday.

The court order came on a petition filed by Ramakrishna Reddy, an MLA of the Opposition YSR Congress Party from Guntur district. Reddy, in his petition, had demanded that Naidu also be included as an accused in the case.

The court set September 29 as the deadline to complete the re-investigation.

The case is related to an alleged offer of bribe to a nominated legislator in Telangana Assembly, Elvis Stephenson, to vote in favour of TDP candidate V. Narender Reddy in the Legislative Council elections in May last year.

An audio tape of Naidu's alleged conversation with Stephenson had surfaced in the first week of June last year, in which the chief minister was heard assuring the legislator that “all commitments would be honoured” if he voted in favour of TDP.

The ACB, which conducted a sting operation, had produced a video proof of the meeting between the TDP deputy floor leader in the Telangana Assembly, Revanth Reddy and Stephenson. The video showed Rs 50 lakh being offered to the legislator as an advance.

After a lot of allegations and counter allegations between the TDP and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), the ruling party in Telangana, the case was put on a back-burner, making people believe that there was a deal between both the CMs.

The petitioner, Ramakrishna Reddy, submitted in court a forensic report from a private laboratory which concluded that the voice sample in the telephonic conversation with Stephenson was that of Chandrababu Naidu. Based on this, the court ordered re-investigation into the case.

The Telangana ACB, which investigated the case, had filed a preliminary charge sheet in July last year, naming TDP’s Revanth Reddy and three others as the main accused in the case. They were arrested and later released on bail.

The issue had snowballed into a political battle between Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrasekhar Rao last year, leading Naidu to leave Hyderabad and shift to Vijayawada permanently. Naidu and his party leaders alleged “illegal tapping” of their phones by the Telangana government and demanded invocation of section 8 of the AP Reorganisation Act and handing over of special powers to Governor ESL Narasihman, who is common to both the states, to oversee law and order in Hyderabad.

The Telangana government stopped pursuing the case, apparently after the advice of the Central government that two states must stop witch hunting and concentrate on development.

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