Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu warned his Telangana counterpart of "consequences", accusing the neighbouring state of tapping his phones and using doctored tapes to corner him, as a political slugfest between the two leaders over the so-called cash-for-vote scam turned ugly on Monday.
Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) filed a slew of cases against Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) and others, a day after audio tapes surfaced with purported phone conversations of the Andhra CM asking a Telangana MLA to vote in favour of a party candidate in local elections.
"Let me tell you it is not in your capacity to intimidate me. Remember that I am not alone. My fight is for my people who are with me," Naidu said to a rousing applause at a rally in Guntur to mark the first anniversary of his government. "I also have a police force and ACB (anti-corruption bureau) in Hyderabad. Telangana is not your property, and I am not alone here. All five crore Andhra people are with me."
TDP workers held protests and burnt effigies of KCR while ministers and legislators backed Naidu, accusing the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) of plotting against their leader.
"The voice on the tape is not of our CM. This is nothing but a conspiracy and we are going to fight it out legally, constitutionally, politically and publicly," said Parakala Prabhakar, adviser to the Andhra Pradesh government. "The TRS government should explain if it has tapped the phones of our CM."
Listen: Chandrababu Naidu's alleged telephone conversation that could throw Telangana in constitutional crisis
Analysts say though TDP leaders and the Andhra government are putting up a brave face, the revelation of the tapes has cast a shadow on the grand celebrations planned to mark the Naidu government’s first anniversary.
Both chief ministers aired their grievances before governor ESL Narasimhan, who reportedly briefed the Centre on the state of affairs.
Since the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh last year that led to the creation of Telangana, the two states share a governor and a capital in Hyderabad.
The controversy snowballed after local TV channels broadcast the conversation between Naidu and Telangana MLA Elvys Stephenson, suggesting that the Andhra CM was giving "assurance of all sorts" to the nominated legislator to get his vote.
"Naidu’s words are like that of a thief asking for his theft to be ignored. But he should know that even God cannot rescue him from the case now," said KCR at a public meet, while his son and Telangana minister, KT Rama Rao, dared the Andhra CM to face a live lie-detector test.
The scam came to the fore when Telangana’s anti-corruption bureau last month caught TDP legislator A Revanth Reddy and two others allegedly offering Rs 50 lakh to Stephenson to persuade him to vote for the TDP-BJP candidate in the state’s legislative council election held on June 1.
The two parties accused each other of horse-trading during the polls in which the TRS won five of the total six seats and the Congress picked up one.
The issue gave opposition parties in Andhra a stick to beat the TDP with as they demanded the chief minister’s resignation while the YSR Congress Party signalled plans of widespread protests from Tuesday.
Sources said ACB officials were in discussions with legal experts to consider sending summons and charging Naidu as the prime accused in the scam as demanded by the TRS, YSRCP and Congress.
The BJP in Telangana, which is an ally of the TDP, is yet to react.
Read: Cong demands Naidu's ouster, TDP sues KCR for 'misleading people'