Updated: January 23, 2022 10:12:11 am
Andhra Pradesh’s high-profile Minister for Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Kodali Venkateshwara Rao has been embroiled in a raging controversy after the Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) accused him of running a “casino” at a convention centre owned by him.
The Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government has distanced itself from their “star” minister over the row. A video clip of a person dealing cards at a table, which was allegedly set up inside the Kodali-owned K Convention Centre located on his home turf Gudivada in Krishna district, has gone viral in the state.
Kodali is a strong supporter of the prohibition policy that AP is trying to implement and has issued statements in the past against gambling. However, the TDP leaders are alleging that a “casino’’ was run for a week during the Sankranti festival, which was celebrated during 14-15 January.
TDP Politburo member B Umamaheswara Rao told The Indian Express that they have video evidence that a “casino’’ was set up at the K Convention Centre on January 12. “Women card dealers were hired to run the casino during the festival week. It was not just illegal gambling, they had set up a casino. It started on January 12 and we got to know of it on January 17 when videos from inside the K Convention Centre and the premises started circulating on social media. We lodged a complaint with the SP of Krishna district but when he did not take any action, on the same day we went to check but YSRCP supporters pelted stones on us. It is highly deplorable and unfortunate that a minister has turned his function hall into a casino and a gambling joint,’’ he alleged.
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When asked about the allegations, Kodali denied them and said that if the TDP can provide evidence to prove it, he would quit politics. “TDP leaders are just looking for some cheap publicity from video clips that have nothing to do with me. I deny all their allegations. If they provide proof, I will quit politics. If it is actually proved that an alleged casino was run at any property I own, I will pour petrol and set myself on fire. I challenge TDP leaders to prove their allegations,’’ he said.
However, with more videos of gambling allegedly taking place at Kodali-owned properties surfacing, TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh, son of party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, charged that Kodali converted Gudivada into “Goa vada’’, accusing him of promoting “casinos” and gambling joints in the constituency.
With such a serious allegation being levelled against their minister, sources said, the YSRCP and the party-led state government have distanced themselves from Kodali. Emerging from a Cabinet meeting held on January 21, an angry Kodali railed against the TDP for allegedly trying to frame him with such allegations.
Sources said that after the Cabinet meeting, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy made it known that he was upset with Kodali and expressed his displeasure, which upset Kodali. The minister came out of the meeting and sought support from his ministerial colleagues by claiming that he was the one who had first complained to police about illegal gambling in his constituency, which however did not cut much ice.
“I don’t need a certificate from the TDP to prove anything. I will disappear from politics if they can prove my connection to the allegations,’’ Kodali told The Indian Express.
On Saturday, TDP politburo member Umamaheswara Rao told The Indian Express that they will provide full evidence to prove that “casino activities’’ occurred in Gudivada during the recent Sankranti celebrations. “I want to ask Minister Kodali if he would stick to his challenge that he would use a petrol bottle to set himself ablaze if illegal gambling charges were proved. He came out of the January 21 Cabinet meeting all shaken and nervous because the CM chided him. It is a huge embarrassment for the government. We have proofs available to prove that even semi-nude dance was held at K Convention hall in Gudivada,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, a TDP fact-finding committee which was given permission to visit Gudivada to inquire about gambling joints, was attacked by YSRCP workers when it reached there. There are thus clear signs that the casino row will continue to rage in AP politics in the coming days.
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