HYDERABAD: Was it 53-year Bishop Harry Sebastian’s ‘friendly’ chat with a group of his friends that led to TTDP MLA A Revanth Reddy walking into a trap in Sunday’s cash-for-vote scam?
Yes, say highly placed sources who were part of the case. In the friendly chat on May 2 in Hyderabad, Sebastian, a member of Telugu Desam party’s Christian cell, spoke at length about the ‘trends in current politics’ and how horsetrading is likely to happen in the MLC elections. During the conversation, sources said Sebastian reportedly spoke about the TTDP leaders too getting in contact with at least three TRS MLAs to get their votes for the party. The hint was about TRS-nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson. The discussion among the group soon reached the powers-to-be and then the operation to trap Revanth Reddy was set in motion. Sources added, that feelers were then sent to the TDP from TRS MLAs about their willingness to vote for the TDP as they were unhappy with the ruling dispensation.
Since then, conversations took place between Stephenson and the TTDP leader over mobile phones. Interestingly, Revanth’s personal phone 8991072510 (not a smartphone) was also leaked to opponents and was tapped by agencies. Sources further added a special team practised a ‘sting operation’ using spy cameras installed in Stephenson’s home located at New Boiguda in Secunderabad.
With the trap laid, Stephenson reportedly refused to meet TTDP leaders at any other place in the city other than his house and the duo met at his home on May 28.
Discussions continued between Revanth Reddy and Stephenson in a phased manner. For the next meeting, Revanth asked Stephenson to come to his farmhouse on the outskirts of the city or at Novotel. Stephenson on the other hand, requested Revanth to meet him at his son’s South Lalaguda house. Stephenson also informed ACB about the bribe offer. And on Sunday afternoon, once the secret cameras were rolling, Revanth walked in to the well-laid trap with wads of notes. Sources said this is the first time that the Telangana ACB officials were assisted by city Task Force sleuths for the operation. Besides, Revanth’s over-confidence and inputs from intelligence agencies contributed to the success of the operation.
Beside Revanth, the three other accused are Bishop Harry Sebastian, Rudhra Uday Simha and Mathias Jerusalem.