Is there a slowdown in ‘vote for cash’ scam probe?

M Somasekhar Hyderabad | Updated on January 24, 2018

Religious fervour: Telangana and Andhra are vying with each other to make the Godavari Maha Pushkaralu a big event to win people’s appreciation. This is said to be one of the factors diverting attention from the scam - Photo: AVG PRASAD

A combination of factors- legal, political and festival- is attributed to the spotlight shifting away from the scam

Has the probe into the ‘vote for cash’ scam, which rapidly snowballed into a major controversy threatening the political fortunes of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu in June, gone into a pause mode?.

A combination of factors — legal, political and festival — has contributed to the spotlight being shifted away from the scam. Consequently the investigation has now slowed down.

Both Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhara Roa, who indulged in personal attacks following the scam, have how diverted their energies to administrative and other challenges that have emerged in their respective States.

As things stand, the audio tapes are being analysed by the State Forensic Labs. The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Telangana is continuing to question key people involved in the scam — the latest being TDP legislator Sandra Venkata Veeraiah. It has also expanded the investigation to include half a dozen more people. Revanth Reddy, the main accused and leader of TDP in Telangana, is out on bail after over three weeks in jail.

In the counter-offensive launched by the Andhra Government alleging illegal phone-tapping of the Chief Minister and top officials in Hyderabad, the joint capital, nearly a dozen mobile operators were given a month’s time to submit their versions. The two Chief Ministers rushed to the common Governor, ESL Narasimhan, who in turn reported the issues to the Union Home Ministry.

The crux of the scam involves a video footage and audio tape of the alleged payment of ₹50 lakh, of the promised ₹5 crore, to a nominated legislator, Elvis Stephenson, by Revanth Reddy, before the elections to the Telangana Legislative Council.

The scam unleashed bitter criticism from both Chief Ministers and their top political leaders, and caused tension between the respective police and administration as well. It went to the point of Naidu getting AP Police security for his camp office in Hyderabad.

It peaked with the Andhra leaders demanding implementation of Section 8 of the AP State Reorganisation, under which the common Governor should exercise the law and order in the joint capital, and Telangana leaders opposing the move vehemently.

Festival time

However, the 10-day official visit of President Pranab Mukherjee to the South, the beginning of the holy month of Ramzan and the five-day official foreign tour of Naidu to Japan deflected the attention of the political class, media and public from the investigation. The role of the Union Home Ministry, post the reports presented by Governor Narasimhan, in soothing the angry nerves of the two warring political leaders and parties in power is also attributed to temporarily slowing down things a bit.

The Godavari Maha Pushkaralu (which is held once in 144 years) and the competitive mood in both the States to make it a big event to win people’s appreciation proved to be the clincher.

The elaborate planning and effort demanded by the 2015 Pushkar (coming after 12 years) meant the Governments had to throw in their administrative machinery behind it.

Opposition demand

Though the Opposition parties — YSR Congress and the Congress (I) — are trying hard to put pressure on the Centre to intensify the probe, it remains to be seen whether the investigation will gather pace again?

Published on July 20, 2015

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