Sircilla municipal chairperson Samala Pavani triggered a massive row on Saturday after she said that taking 'commissions' was a common occurrence as part of sanctioning civic projects in the Telangana town, and also hinted that it had the sanction of 'our minister', although she did not name the minister.
Stating that it was something the local media knew about, Pavani said that Councillors would 'take percentages' from contractors and it was a common practice. A video of her press meet went viral across social media platforms on Saturday.
She says, "Our Minister only said that we (government officials) don't get anything. I'm telling you (mediapersons) known facts only. If there is a contractor, it will be 1% or 2% or 3% (Commission). Based on that, if they do some work, and give (bribe) to councillor, everything will be done."
However, to make things worse, Pavani then goes on to argue that it is wrong to point fingers as councillors spend a lot of money in getting civic works done.
"They spent a lot of money as councillors (during the election), so they (contractors) should at least give one or two percent. We are all roaming around in our wards, so it is their (contractors) duty to give to us," she added.
She also said that this was not unique to Sircilla but took place across all municipalities in the state.
Watch the video below.
Opposition hits out
However, opposition parties in the state have questioned Pavani's statement and questioned the identity of the 'Minister' she is talking about. Leaders of the opposition point out that the legislator from Sircilla is KT Rama Rao, who also happens to be the state's Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD) Minister.
Alleging that corruption had become rampant since the TRS came to power, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju said, "When a municipal chairperson says 'our minister', she must obviously mean the municipal minister only. Besides, which other minister is there in Sircilla?"
Sravan also said that the toll-free number launched by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to report corruption, was just an 'image-building exercise' and had not tackled the problem.
"The TRS is full of 'talkers' not 'do-ers'. They have no control over administration. When the Chief Minister and his own family are making so much money in the name of projects, why will the officials in the lower rung of the administration not do the same?" Sravan asked.
Speaking to TNM, BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao said, "The BJP stands vindicated of the charges and allegations we made against the TRS that it is a corrupt government that is promoting corruption at every level. The Councillor is blatantly saying that corruption is their birthright and she refers to KTR itself to justify this."
Referring to Pavani's suggestion that Councillors should not be blamed for taking a commission, Krishna Saagar Rao added, "This is atrocious and she has been brazenly and blatantly caught saying what is going on in the government. The people of Telangana must give a befitting reply to the TRS in the 2019 elections."
TRS remains mum
Meanwhile, as the video went viral, the Sircilla municipal chairperson submitted her resignation.
The resignation letter, a copy of which is with TNM, cites 'personal reasons' as the motive to quit her post, and also thanks Municipal Minister KT Rama Rao and her staff for letting her serve in her post for the past four years.
Despite this, the TRS is yet to address reporters on the issue, though a serious allegation has been levelled against the Chief Minister's son.
"The CM has a moral and administrative responsibility to clarify if the minister in question has any role, and inform the people, before taking action," Sravan said.
"The TRS will not respond or they will simply indulge in shifting the blame. The party behaves as if they are owners of the state and not elected representatives," Krishna Saagar Rao said.