Telangana’s ACB issues notice to accused in cash-for-vote case

Hyderabad: The cash-for-vote case allegedly involving leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) came to the fore again with Telangana’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on Saturday issuing notice to an accused, Jerusalem Muthaiah.

The ACB has asked him to appear before it for questioning. He has been directed to make himself available at the ACB office within a week.

The anti-graft agency served the notice on Muthaiah at his house in Uppal here, though he initially refused to accept it on the ground that he has nothing to do with the case. He also cited a high court accepting his quash petition.

Muthaiah is the fourth accused in the case registered by the ACB last year. He was absconding and had taken shelter in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

He had also lodged a complaint at a police station in Vijayawada against Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao.

He had alleged that Rao’s followers assaulted him to force him to give a statement against Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu in the case.

The notice to Muthaiah was served amid reports that ACB might arrest TDP legislator M. Gopinath in the case. Gopinath is a member of Telangana assembly from Jubliee Hills constituency in Hyderabad.

The sensational case had come to light in May last year when TDP legislator Revanth Reddy was arrested by the ACB while he was offering Rs.50 lakh as a bribe to nominated member Elvis Stephenson reportedly to induce him to vote for TDP candidate Narender Reddy in the elections to Telangana legislative council.

The ACB, which laid a trap on a complaint by Stephenson, also arrested two aides of Revanth Reddy.

Another legislator Sandra Venkata Veeraiah was also arrested in the case. The agency also questioned several others including Narender Reddy.

The case had snowballed into a huge row between the two states when an audio tape of Naidu’s purported conversation with Stephenson was aired by some television channels in June.

TRS accused Naidu of plotting to topple the government while TDP alleged that the TRS government illegally tapped the telephones of the Andhra chief minister and his cabinet colleagues in Hyderabad, the joint capital of the two states.

However, the investigations into the case over the last few months had almost come to a halt with the improvement in relations between the two chief ministers. Rao had visited Andhra Pradesh at the invitation of Naidu to attend the foundation stone laying ceremony of new state capital Amaravati in October.

In December, Naidu reciprocated by attending ‘Ayutha chandi yagam’ — a mega religious event hosted by the Telangana chief minister.

The latest development in the case came amid defections of TDP legislators in Telangana. As many as four MLAs quit TDP and joined TRS this week, taking the number to 10 since the 2014 election.

TDP had bagged 15 seats in the 119-member Telangana assembly in the election.