Revanth wields ‘corruption’ stick to beat BRS with action against Telangana officers

Several investigations are underway as skeletons from the BRS' closet tumble out one after the other in a metronymic rhythm.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 12, 2024 | 10:00 AMUpdated Feb 12, 2024 | 10:00 AM

Revanth wields ‘corruption’ stick to beat BRS with action against Telangana officers

Intent on doing an encore in the Lok Sabha elections, the Revanth Reddy regime in Telangana appears bent on convincing people that the hallmark of the previous BRS government was corruption and that the cancer had spread in all echelons of the administration like the fish that rots from head down.

The chief minister looks as though he is hoping to reap a rich harvest of votes by publicly discrediting the BRS regime. Though the target before him is 12 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats, he wants to net more.

Revanth, as TPCC president, had fought the Assembly elections primarily on three planks: The BRS’ corruption, its disrespect to Telangana sentiment, and the impinging of the freedom of the people by KCR, who was overcome by “hubris”.

Now, skeletons from the BRS’ closet are tumbling out one after the other in a metronymic rhythm.

Investigations are going on into several aspects of deals in the power sector, the building of the Dharani portal and how it was allegedly used to snatch lands from the farmers, the scandals of the Formula-E Race, and the Nehru Outer Ring Road maintenance being entrusted to a private player.

Also Read: CM Revanth Reddy goes all out to delink Telangana movement from BRS

Crackdown on Irrigation Department

Revanth Reddy, when he was fighting the elections, left no room for doubt as to what he intended to do after coming to power. He had said that the state would order an inquiry into the corrupt deeds of BRS chief and two-time Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao.

“If he thinks he can retire to his farmhouse after losing the elections, he is mistaken. We will prosecute him and make him retch out the crores of rupees he had illegally ingested,” he said.

In the very first session of the Assembly in December last year, Revanth ordered a judicial inquiry into the Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Scheme (KLIS), power purchase agreements with Chhattisgarh, and the construction of Bhadradri and Yadadri power plants.

Now the government has begun uncovering scams without appearing to be very brazen. This seems to be one of Revanth Reddy’s strategies not to appear vindictive but to reduce the BRS to rubble as KCR did to the Congress when he was in the saddle.

Take, for instance, the recent sacking of Irrigation Department Engineer-in-Chief C Muralidhar Rao, who had been in the service of the BRS government even after his retirement in 2013.

He was asked to resign, which he did, after the Vigilance and Enforcement Department indicted him for the sinking of the piers of the Medigadda barrage, which is part of the multi-stage, multi-crore KLIS.

The minister also sacked KLIS-incharge N Venktaeswarlu, who was also on deputation after retirement from service.

Revanth Reddy, when he was in the Opposition, used to slam KCR for retaining Muralidhar Rao after his retirement from service. He attributed motives to KCR since Muralidhar Rao was his trusted lieutenant.

After the expiry of his first extension in 2017, it was further extended since his “service was needed” for the completion of projects which were in various stages of execution. He had been in service on a contractual basis till he made the great exit a few days ago.

Also read: Revanth-KCR tussle escalates with barbs, small room in Assembly

The Arvind Kumar saga

Earlier, senior bureaucrat Arvind Kumar was issued a memo for giving clearances for the conduct of Formula E Operations (FEO) in Hyderabad. The government said that clearances given by him led to the state facing legal action.

According to Deputy Chief Minister Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, Arvind Kumar, who was the then special chief secretary of the Municipal Administration Department, committed an impropriety by making a payment of ₹54 crore (including ₹9 crore in taxes) to FEO when the BRS was in power.

The memo issued to the IAS officer later asked him to explain how he could allow payment without clearance from the Finance Department and the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority (HMDA).

The memo also observed that the HMDA was never the competent authority to host or manage events such as the Formula E Race.

To this, Arvind Kumar said that KT Rama Rao — KCR’s son and the then industries minister — was informed of the agreement at every stage and the permission and clearances were obtained from him. Arvind was later transferred and posted as the special chief secretary.

Related: Telangana govt announces transfers, postings of IAS, IPS officers

More corruption allegations

Then came the raid by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) on the residence and office of senior government official Shiva Balakrishna and his subsequent arrest on 24 January.

It rocked the state as it had disturbing ramifications. He was found to have disproportionate assets running into hundreds of crores of rupees. He was accused of amassing wealth when he was director of the HMDA.

As the ACB sleuths continued their investigation, they made startling discoveries. Balakrishna is understood to have confessed that he amassed wealth with the “support” of Arvind Kumar, who in turn allegedly took favours and made money for himself.

Balakrishna’s confession, filed before the ACB court, mentioned how he and Arvind Kumar sanctioned building and change of land use permissions for pecuniary considerations. The government appears to have asked the ACB to dig deeper into the allegations of corruption against Arvind Kumar.

When Revanth Reddy was just the PCC chief, Arvind Kumar apparently refused to see him in the secretariat. Revanth Reddy was asked to wait outside the gates.

He said he went to the secretariat to file an RTI application on the Nehru Ring Road maintenance being entrusted to a private player.

He was then asked to go to the office of the director of municipal administration at AC Guards in Hyderabad, where he again did not find any responsible officer to take his application.

Related: Telangana suspends ex-HMDA chief Shiva Balakrishna

Dharani portal and other irregularities

Now what is making waves is the quick progress in the inquiry into scams that allegedly took place using the Dharani portal under the BRS administration.

The then chief secretary Somesh Kumar, who built the Dharani portal allegedly based on the suggestions of the then chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, finds himself in hot waters.

The government has formed a committee to probe the ulterior motives of developing the portal and what should be done to make it farmer-friendly.

Another official who was shown the gate after the change of guard was B Janardhan Reddy, former chairman of the Telangana State Public Service Commission (TSPSC) in May 2021. He was considered KTR’s blue-eyed boy. After he retired from IAS, he was appointed chairman of the recruitment body.

The charge against him was inept handling of the examinations for recruitment to various posts in the government. The leak of question papers for recruitment tests also discredited his image.

If the BRS government faced flak for not filing government vacancies, it was further pilloried for the inept handling of examinations when the BRS finally decided to fill vacancies ahead of the Assembly elections.

There were allegations that the staff of the TSPRC who leaked the question papers sold them in the open market with impunity.

The Congress had taken the BRS to cleaners on this score. Revanth Reddy spearheaded the agitation against the TSPSC, trying to show how callous and heartless the BRS was when a woman student preparing for the Group-I examination died by suicide in October last year and the then ruling party attributed the motive to an affair.

Though the Congress government is yet to proceed on the deal that the BRS government sealed with a private player for maintenance of the Outer Ring Road (ORR) for 30 years, indications are that it will soon do it.

The BRS Government had awarded the ORR’s maintenance works to IRB Infrastructure Developers Ltd for consideration of a transaction amount of ₹7,380 crore.

Before the elections, Revanth Reddy expressed serious misgivings about the ORR contract being handed to a private player.

He described it as a major scam, alleging that the contract was given for a consideration of ₹1,000 crore in kickbacks.

He vowed that he would initiate action against the politicians and officials responsible for clinching the deal.

The significance of the government’s moves is not lost on the BRS. The party’s working president KT Rama Rao, speaking at an Assembly constituency-level workers’ meeting on Saturday, said that the BRS was prepared to face any inquiry.

“The power is with them. Let them order any number of inquiries. We are not worried. We are clean,” he said.

Probing Dharani: Telangana panel to make field visits to check allegations of land scams