HYDERABAD: In a setback to TDP supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, the infamous but forgotten cash-for-vote scandal has returned to haunt him. The ACB special court here on Monday directed the probe agency to reinvestigate the case, in which Telangana TDP MLA Revanth Reddy and other party leaders were involved, and submit its report before September 29.
The ACB was ordered to reopen the case under Section 156 (3) of the CrPC, which empowers the magistrate to check police performance and monitor it besides naming persons mentioned in the complaint as accused.
The court issued the order on a private complaint filed by YSRC MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy. The MLA’s advocate submitted ‘evidence’, alleging involvement of Chandrababu Naidu in the case. In his plea, Reddy said that investigation slowed and stopped completely after a certain point as the role Chandrababu Naidu emerged.
“The investigating agency wanted to protect the accused for reasons best known to itself despite the fact that the voice sample it had of the accused matched with that of Naidu. The forensic lab confirmed that the voice in the telephonic conversation was that of Naidu,” he said.
TTDP MLA Revanth Reddy and others were caught-red handed while offering a bribe of Rs 50 lakh to nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson as advance of the Rs 5 crore promised to him in return for his support to the party candidate in MLC polls.
Stephenson, who represents the Anglo-Indian community in the Telangana Assembly, subsequently lodged a complaint with the police stating that one Mithiyas Jerusalam had approached him and offered Rs 2 crore and a ticket to leave the country or vote in favour of the TDP in the MLC elections. On May 31, 2015, the ACB officials registered cases against Revanth Reddy, Bishop Harry Sebastian, Pastor Rudra Udayasimha and Matthaiah Jerusalam.
Political circles are agog over the repercussions of the ACB Special Court’s latest directive to the probing agency to re-investigate the cash-for-vote case in which TDP boss and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s alleged role was criticised by the TRS, YSRC and Congress.
As already ACB officials a few months ago categorically stated that the voice recorded in the alleged telephonic conversation between Naidu and nominated MLA in the Telangana Assembly Elvis Stephenson, during the time of occurrence of the scam, matched with the voice samples of AP chief minister, now politicos are curious about how the probing agency would take forward the investigation further in order to submit its final report to the Court by Sept 29, the fresh deadline set by the Court.
“As Forensic Science Laboratory has already confirmed in its report that the voice samples of Naidu matched with the voice records in the conversation with Stephenson, now all eyes are on the investigating agency. Will the ACB sleuths question Naidu? Will they include his name in the chargesheet leading to his arrest?”-these are some of the questions doing rounds among political circles.
The timing of the petition filed by the YSRC MLA Alla Ramakrishna Reddy, seeking speedy investigation into the cash-for-vote case alleged involving TDP leadership has also led to a wider debate on the ‘present’ relations between the top brass of the TDP and the TRS. The filing of YSRC case in the Court should be seen against the backdrop of TDP’s sudden efforts to corner the ruling TRS in Telangana. Of late, TDP TS unit leaders such as A Revanth Reddy, who is prime accused in the case, have begun attacking the Chandrasekhar Rao government.
“All these developments indicate at straining of relations between TDP and TRS leaderships. It could also be an indication that the YSRC is gradually making peace with TRS in Telangana,” a TDP leader commented.
Interestingly, the YSRC approached the Court on a day when the TTDP leaders tried to take out a rally in Hyderabad, opposing the ‘Maha Pact’. Meanwhile, the YSRC spokesperson Ambati Rambabu said, “All efforts of Chandrababu Naidu to wriggle out of the cash-for-vote case would be vain in wake of the ACB court ruling to reinvestigate the case and his private deals will cut no ice this time over.”
“It is 14 months since the case broke out and it is progressing at snail’s pace with compromise at every stage and Chandrababu Naidu nodding to his Telangana counterpart demands and a union minister brokering peace between the two has come to a naught with the ACB court directive to reinvestigate the case,” Rambabu commented.