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Telangana cash-for-vote case: Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu in alleged call controversy

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Hyderabad: The cash-for-vote scam in Telangana took a dramatic turn on Sunday with the release of an audio tape of a purported telephonic conversation between Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and nominated Telangana legislator Elvis Stephenson.

The Andhra government denied that it’s Naidu’s voice.

This is perhaps for the first time in India that a Chief Minister of a state has been tapped while allegedly trying to lure a legislator. Denying that it is Naidu’s voice, the Andhra Pradesh government has taken the release of audio tape seriously and vowed to fight it legally, constitutionally and politically.

The new twist may create a constitutional crisis as Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of Telangana is planning to summon Naidu for questioning in the case.

Hyderabad is the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Both Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) governments have taken up the issue with E.S.L. Narasimhan, who is the governor for both the Telugu states.

The audio tape was released three days after Telangana Home Minister N. Narasimha Reddy said that the government has proof that Naidu spoke to Stephenson and some other MLAs of TRS, to lure them to vote for TDP-BJP candidate in Telangana legislative council elections.

The audio tape was first played at T News, a Telugu news channel owned by ruling TRS and was later picked up by others.

During the conversation, Naidu purportedly assured the nominated member that he is with him.

“Our people briefed me. I am with you, don’t bother. For everything I am with you. What all they spoke we will honour,” Naidu was heard as telling the legislator.

In swift developments on Sunday night, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao met Governor Narasimhan at Raj Bhavan while Naidu called a meeting with Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police J.V. Ramudu and other officials to take stock of the latest situation.

Rao’s meeting with the governor, the second in three days, came minutes after the release of the audio tape.

Telangana TDP legislator A. Revanth Reddy was arrested by the ACB on May 31 when he was offering Rs.50 lakh to Stephenson to make him vote for TDP-BJP candidate in the elections to Telangana legislative council.

ACB, which had laid a trap on a complaint by Stephenson, also arrested Revanth Reddy’s aides Sebastian Harry and Uday Simha.

TRS leaders have been alleging that Naidu is the mastermind in the scam and he should be booked.

The audio tape came to light a few hours after ACB questioned Revanth Reddy and two others for a second day. A city court had sent them to four-day custody of ACB.

Earlier in the day, Naidu met Narasimhan, who is governor for both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. The TDP chief reportedly complained to the governor about TRS government tapping his phone.

Meanwhile, Naidu’s media advisor Prakala Prabhakar told reporters on Sunday night that the voice in the audio tape is not the voice of Naidu.

He said the government was taking the release of the audio tape seriously and will not keep quiet.

“We will fight it legally, constitutionally and politically,” he said.

He wanted to know from the TRS government as to how it got the audio tape.

“If you have done telephone tapping, it is a crime and if you have recorded Mr. Chandrababu Naidu’s voice on different occasions, tampered it and presented to mislead people that it is his conversation, it is also a crime,” he said.

Naidu’s aide wondered how the audio tape could be released as evidence when the same should be produced in the court, where the case is being heard. Prakala condemned the attitude of Telangana government towards Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister in the common capital. He said both the governments and both the Chief Ministers had equal rights in the common capital.

He pointed out that under section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the governor is responsible for law and order, protection of lives and property of people and vital installations in Hyderabad.

He alleged that the release of audio tape was a conspiracy to tarnish Naidu’s image and disrupt the public meeting scheduled to be held in Guntur on Monday to mark TDP government’s first year.

The media advisor said that the government would go ahead with the meeting and fight the conspiracy.

Andhra Pradesh’s Finance Minister and senior TDP leader Y. Ramakrishnudu said that the audio tape was a proof that the TRS government was violating law by tapping phones. (IANS)

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Microsoft Unveils e-commerce Portal For Telangana’s Handloom Weavers

Weavers are trained in the use of natural dyes to enable them to make newer and sustainable handwoven products to meet the demands of the socially and environmentally aware consumer

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Microsoft launches e-commerce portal for Telangana's handloom weavers. Pixabay

In a bid to empower handloom weavers in Telangana, Microsoft India on Saturday announced the launch of a new e-commerce portal that will help the weavers optimise operations and engage better with customers.

The “re-weave.in” will host signature collections created by the weaver communities, and showcase traditional designs and products created from natural dyes.

“With the introduction of our new e-commerce platform, digital empowerment centres and the new design curriculum, the weavers will be able to build on the rich handloom heritage of India and also reach out to a wider customer base,” Anil Bhansali, Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D) said in a statement.

This e-market place would help sell to a broad set of customers, which would support the weavers by increasing their income and earning a sustainable livelihood while simultaneously reviving traditional but forgotten Indian art.

Microsoft also partnered with the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) to curate a special curriculum in ‘CAD and Colour for Handloom Weaving’ to provide digital training in handloom design.

The tech giant has also been steadily expanding digital empowerment centres to more weaver clusters in the state.

Microsoft, Taiwan AI
A man walks past a Microsoft sign set up for the Microsoft BUILD conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco, April 28, 2015. Microsoft says it’s requiring its U.S. suppliers to offer their employees at least 12 weeks paid leave to care for a new child. The company announced the new parental leave policy Thursday. VOA

“ReWeave ties very well into Microsoft’s mission to empower every person and every organisation in the communities we work in by using Project Sangam — our Azure based technology solution and expertise to democratise opportunities and bridge the digital divide,” Bhansali said.

The first batch of 100 handloom weavers at NIFT have been awarded certificates for successful design course completion.

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“These initiatives like e-commerce marketplace and design training will enable weaver communities to sustain themselves and provide livelihood to artisans,” said Jayesh Ranjan, Principal Secretary, Industries & IT, Telangana.

“This also is a practical solution to motivate younger generation of weavers to continue with their traditions and not divert into other professions,” Ranjan said.

Project ReWeave also aims to help the weavers with working capital support through non-profit organisations.

Weavers are trained in the use of natural dyes to enable them to make newer and sustainable handwoven products to meet the demands of the socially and environmentally aware consumer.  (IANS)