Authorities of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the famous Hindu temple of Sri Venkateswara atop Tirumala in Andhra Pradesh, ordered a probe on Sunday into an audio tape that has shaken the temple town.
The audio, which surfaced earlier this week, allegedly shows popular actor-comedian Prudhvi Raj, who is also the chairman of Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel (SVBC), allegedly sexually harassing a female employee over the phone.
The TTD has ordered a probe by its vigilance wing into the purported telephonic conversation of the SVBC chairman. TTD Chairman YV Subba Reddy ordered the probe after the audio tape, leaked by some channel employees, triggered a huge row and left TTD authorities red-faced.
In the audio tape which went viral, a voice purportedly belonging to Prudhvi, is heard sexually harassing a woman employee. It is unclear if the woman has filed a complaint or how the audio leaked. Though the audio's authenticity is still unverified, this is a storm that the Jagan government was least expecting.
"I love you. I wanted to hug you from behind in office earlier in the day. But, I hesitated as you may raise an alarm. I want to have a drink in your company," he purportedly told a woman employee.
When the woman asks him if he was drunk, he purportedly tells her he had quit drinking a year ago but would want to restart in her company.
The incident caused embarrassment to the YSRCP government which had appointed Prudhvi Raj in the first place. Taking a serious note of the incident, the government is reported to have asked Prudhvi Raj to resign.
The audio tape sparked protests by the SVBC employees and opposition parties. The SVBC employees union and BJP leader Bhanu Prakash demanded that Prudhvi Raj be sacked.
The SVBC chairman, however, denied the allegations. He said it was not his voice in the audio.
"I am deeply anguished. I never thought that anyone would resort to such mudslinging and put such 'fake' audios," he said in a video statement.
TTD has set up the channel in 2008 for publicizing the Tirumala temple activities.
Prudhvi Raj was appointed channel head after YSRCP came to power in May last year. Prudhvi had joined the YSRCP in 2018. He even accompanied Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in his 'Praja Sankalpa Yatra' ahead of the elections, in West Godavari district.