On May 31, 2015, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials arrested Anumula Revanth Reddy, a Telangana Telugu Desham Party (TDP) MLA and two accomplices. The accused were caught red handed while offering a bribe to nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson to induce him to vote for a TDP candidate in the council elections scheduled the next day. As can be expected, this sensational "reverse trap" sent ripples in the political spheres.
A video purporting to be a record of the conversations between the three suspects and the victim went viral on the local electronic media. This tape shows Revanth Reddy on several occasions mentioning an individual identified variously as "boss", "babu", "babu garu" etc. This was generally believed to be to a reference to Nara Chandra Babu Naidu, TDP president, who coincidentally is also the Seemandhra Chief Minister. As one may expect, speculation that Revanth Reddy was a mere instrument of a criminal conspiracy hatched by Naidu mounted.
On June 6, 2015, an audio clip purporting to be a record of the conversation between Naidu and Stephenson was aired by the electronic media. All hell broke loose!
Naidu, clearly caught on a wrong foot, immediately went into conference. Surprisingly enough he did not confer with his personal or legal advisors or even with his party colleagues. For some strange reason, his first reaction to the gathering storm was a meeting with senior police & bureaucratic bigwigs!
Dr. Parakala Prabhakar, Communications Advisor to the Seemandhra government, emerged from the meeting to speak to the waiting scribes. Prabhakar first claimed "the voice on the tapes aired on a Telugu television channel was not that of Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu". He went on to voice a suspicion that "the tapes were doctored by interspersing the voice of Mr. Naidu from various occasions".
Not content with these statements, Prabhakar demanded Telangana government reveal why Naidu's phone was taped. He coyly observed the video "should have been placed before the court". He alleged Telangana government conspired to besmirch Chief Minister and the Seemandhra government. For good measure he threatened not to spare anyone involved in this alleged conspiracy.
Alumni of the London School of Economics, Parakala Prabhakar hails from a powerful Seemandhra political family. He is a familiar figure these days thanks to the venom he spewed against the Telangana statehood movement in the last several years. Before thus "raising to fame" he was a virtually unknown individual having failed in three botched attempts to attain political office, incidentally in three different parties! Subsequent to this short-lived political "career" he made an uneventful foray into "journalism". A part time educationalist, his only "achievement" hitherto relates to a corporate branding business he runs. His wife, a minister of state in the central government, enjoys a good reputation in Delhi's political circles.
Moving on to check Prabhakar's statement, we find several contradictions. If the voice on the tape was not Naidu's, it could not have been spliced together from speeches from various occasions. As Bertram Wooster would have said, I am surprised why this did not occur to such an intelligent chap J
I am also surprised to note Prabhakar directing his questions about the video to the Telangana government and not to the media who aired it. Media world over receives information from sources that enjoy traditional protection. All attempts to force disclosure of sources have failed globally. As a former "journalist" and a foremost expert at cultivating media houses, Prabhakar could not have been unaware of this.
Jumping to the conclusion the video aired on several channels was released by the government betrays a sense of frustration. Unfortunately for the people of Seemandhra, this frustration looks to stem from the agony of being caught red handed rather than any remorse at wrong doing!
As of now, there is no proceeding or even a case against Naidu. He is merely a suspect in the conspiracy. Even the proceedings against Revanth Reddy, Naidu's suspected accomplice in the conspiracy, are at an early investigative stage. Demanding why the video is not with the court is foolish to say the least.
Even assuming for a moment the impugned video is material evidence sought to be used by ACB in a case against Naidu (or will be so used in the future), there is no need for the prosecution to submit all evidence at one go. It is perfectly legal to submit evidence as and when the prosecution deems necessary.
Prabhakar again jumps to the conclusion that the video is the result of phone tapping. Have you heard of recording devices, Mr. Communications Advisor? How would you and those whom you try to protect look if it turns out the victim (or ACB on his request) recorded incoming phone calls?
If Prabhakar is laboring under the impression that phone tapping is illegal, he is totally wrong. A phone tap may be ordered under section 5 (2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The honorable Supreme Court issued several directions in the PUCL v. India, 2008 that include inter alia:
· The order can be issued by the Home Secretary
· In an urgent case, the power can be delegated to a Home department officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary
· Copy of the order to be sent to the appropriate Review Committee within a week
· The order lapses in two months unless renewed
We are not concerned here with the political fallout of possible phone tapping or even the ethics of the phenomenon. These are subjects for another separate discussion.
Summing up, all of Prabhakar's inane rants are fit for nothing but the trash can J
Another, much more disturbing, aspect emerges from the sorry episode. The potential future case against Nara Chandra Babu Naidu will lie in his capacity as an individual occupying the position of president of TDP, a party recognized in Telangana. The other hats he may happen to wear, including the position Seemandhra Chief Minister, are irrelevant to the prosecution. Seemandhra government is not a party to the case by any stretch of imagination.
As the Communications Advisor to the Seemandhra government, Parakala Prabhakar (and the other worthies who conferred with) Naidu is a public servant drawing his emoluments from the public exchequer. He is not a member of Naidu's cabinet or even the TDP, incidentally the only important Seemandhra political party he failed to join during his party hopping days. He has no business to involve in affairs that do not concern the government. Prabhakar's taking up cudgels on Naidu's behalf is not only grossly unethical but also violates service rules governing public servants. This is tantamount to aiding & abetting Naidu's conspiracy to use the power of his office to defend a private criminal case.
Because Parakala Prabhakar betrayed the Seemandhra people, his ultimate masters, by interfering in a matter that does not concern him, I am constrained to raise the following questions:
· Have you offered illegal gratification or abetted acts of such offers to any media house on behalf of Naidu or TDP?
· Have you or firms in whom you have interest received any remuneration from Seemandhra government over and above the amounts due to you as Communications Advisor?
· Have you or others directed by you planted stories in the media in support of Naidu/TDP or critical of political opponents?
The public, as Arnab Goswamy is fond of saying, wants to know.