As Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu completed a year in office on Monday, he was embroiled in a cash-for-votes
in Telangana with the emergence of a taped phone conversation in which he is purportedly heard asking a legislator to back a TDP candidate in an election.
The Andhra Pradesh government denied that it is Naidu's voice on the audio tape first played on Sunday on T News, a Telugu news channel owned by the family of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, and later picked up by other channels.
The opposition Congress said Naidu should quit, with senior party leader Digvijaya Singh tweeting: “If the audio tapes of Chandra Babu regarding cash for votes are genuine then he must resign.”
Naidu's alleged telephone conversation
Leaders of Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) filed a string of defamation cases against Chandrashekar Rao at several places in Andhra Pradesh. An FIR was also filed in Visakhapatnam against Chandrashekar Rao for allegedly defaming Naidu.
The new controversy may create a constitutional crisis as Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is planning to summon Naidu for questioning.
The tape features a purported phone conversation between Naidu and nominated Telangana legislator Elvys Stephenson, and suggests that the chief minister gave an "assurance of all sorts" to the MLA if he voted for a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) nominee in the Telangana legislative council election.
During the conversation, Naidu purportedly said, "Our people briefed me. I am with you, don't bother. For everything I am with you. What all they spoke, we will honour…For your commitment we will work together.”
Media reports said the recording of the purported conversation was released to a section of the media by Telangana’s ACB, which is investigating the cash-for-votes scam.
TDP legislator Revanth Reddy and two others - Sebastian Harry and Uday Simha - on May 31 for allegedly handing over Rs 50 lakh to Stephenson a few days before the election to vote for a TDP nominee.
The ACB is questioning Reddy and the others in the cash-for-votes case.
The audio tape became public three days after Telangana home minister N Narasimha Reddy said the government has proof that Naidu spoke to Stephenson and other MLAs of the TRS to lure them to vote for the TDP candidate.
The Andhra Pradesh government has demanded that the Telangana government and chief minister Chandrasekhar Rao must provide an explanation about the veracity of the tapes.
Andhra Pradesh government spokesman Parakala Prabhakar said the tape is fabricated but the state is taking the issue seriously.
Prabhakar alleged the Telangana government is trying to malign Naidu’s image and mislead the people of Andhra Pradesh by resorting to “cheap tactics”.
He wanted to know how the Telangana government got the audio tape. "If you have done telephone tapping, it is a crime and if you have recorded Mr Chandrababu Naidu's voice on different occasions, tampered it and presented to mislead people that it is his conversation," he said.
"It is not the chief minister's conversation. How come they are available outside? The Telangana government has to give answer to this. Telangana CM and home minister should give answers," Parakala said.
Andhra Pradesh's finance minister Y Ramakrishnudu, a senior leader of the TDP, said the tape is proof that the Telangana government is violating the law by tapping phones.
Hyderabad is the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The TRS government in Telangana and the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh have taken up the issue with ESL Narasimhan, the governor of both states.
On Sunday night, Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao met Narasimhan at the Raj Bhavan, while Naidu called a meeting with Andhra Pradesh police chief JV Ramudu and other officials to take stock of the situation.
Rao's meeting with the governor, the second in three days, came minutes after the release of the tape that emerged a few hours after the ACB questioned Reddy and two others for the second day in the cash-for-votes case.
(With agency inputs)