Telangana: Three Detained for Alleged Attempts to Lure Four TRS MLAs to Join BJP

According to the ruling TRS, the MLAs were offered Rs 100 crore each as part of BJP's "Operation Lotus". The BJP, for its part, rubbished it as a "scripted flop show" of the TRS.

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New Delhi: The Telangana police on Wednesday, October 26, detained three persons who allegedly descended in Hyderabad in a bid to offer Rs 100 crore each to four MLAs of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), asking them to switch loyalties to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The accused were caught “red-handed”, and Rs 15 crore in cash was seized from a farmhouse located on the outskirts of Hyderabad city, police said. The charge of Rs 100 crore offer is being bandied about by the TRS while police are silent on the money involved. The alleged poaching episode comes at a time when the TRS and the BJP are in a pitched battle ahead of the November 3 by-poll for the Munugode assembly segment.

The TRS MLAs who are said to be lured into joining BJP are Guvvala Balaraju (Atchampet assembly segment), B. Harshavardhan Reddy (Kollapur), Rega Kantarao (Pinapaka) and Pilot Rohith Reddy (Tandur). According to Cyberabad commissioner of police, Stephen Ravendra, the police acted upon a tip-off from one of the MLAs, Pilot Rohith Reddy, to whom the farmhouse in question belongs.

The accused have been, according to the police, identified as Ramachandra Bharati alias Satish Sharma, a priest from Faridabad in Haryana; Simhayaji, pontiff of Srimanatha Raja Peetham in Tirupati; and Nandakumar, owner of a restaurant, Deccan Pride in Hyderabad.

“We received information from TRS MLAs that they were being lured with the promise of money and contracts. Immediately, we carried out raids. We received information that they were camping at a farmhouse in Aziznagar. We learnt that one Ramachandra Bharati alias Satish Sharma, a priest from a temple in Faridabad, carried out consultations with the MLAs. Along with Ramachandra Bharati, a priest from Tirupathi Simhayaji and Hyderabad resident Nandakumar were in the farmhouse. Nandakumar brought the others to Hyderabad to broker the deal with TRS MLAs. Our investigation is on. We will take legal action against the accused,” said Stephen Ravindra, according to Telugu news outlet Eenadu.

Soon after the news emerged on Thursday evening, Telugu news channels splashed pictures of the four MLAs sitting together, and the three accused persons sitting separately as a group. According to the Telangana BJP state unit, the pictures were released by the police themselves to the media as part of ruling TRS’ carefully “orchestrated drama” to defame the BJP.

The TRS was quick to retort, stating that the BJP’s “Operation Lotus” was “exposed” by the Telangana police. The term “Operation Lotus” is often used by opposition parties to refer to the BJP’s alleged poaching of MLAs from other parties to topple governments led by other parties.

Media outlets that are close to the ruling TRS declared the alleged poaching attempt was the handiwork of the national leadership of the BJP, with Union home minister Amit Shah in the know of things. Calling it a “covert operation busted by the Hyderabad Police, the TRS party tweeted:

According to TRS leaders, the alleged poaching operation intended to make the MLAs in question join the BJP at a public meeting of BJP national chief J.P. Nadda on October 31 in Munugode, days before the by-poll.

‘Scripted flop show’

BJP leader and Union minister G. Kishan Reddy rubbished the incident as a “scripted flop show” by the TRS to defame the BJP ahead of the Munugode by-poll. He said the entire episode was carried out under the direction of TRS supremo and chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao.

On the allegations that one of the accused, Nandakumar, was a “close aide” of his, the Union minister said he has been in politics for long and various people would have clicked pictures with him. The mere act of clicking pictures with him did not mean the said person was close to him, Reddy said.

The TRS released pictures of each of the accused photographed with top BJP leaders, including Nitin Gadkari, Yogi Adityanath, Rajnath Singh, and Kishan Reddy as well.

Taking to Twitter, Kishan Reddy said:

The Union minister has also sought an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, into the whole episode. “If the TRS government has purity of mind, I request that the case be handed over to the CBI. I am asking whether the state government is ready for this? I am giving two options. Either you get it inquired by a Supreme Court sitting judge or hand it over to the CBI as this case is an interstate issue.”

Telangana BJP state unit chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar too dismissed the entire controversy as an “orchestrated campaign” of KCR’s party to defame the BJP. He said it was deplorable that the TRS had plumbed new depths to “use swamijis” to further its political ambitions.

On Twitter, Kumar said:

In the 119-member Telangana legislative assembly, TRS currently has a strength of 103 MLAs, BJP two, Congress five, and All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen seven. Although BJP had three legislators in the assembly, its tally came down to two with the suspension of T. Raja Singh after his controversial remarks against the Prophet Muhammad.

Lately, the BJP has positioned itself as the alternative to the TRS. The national leadership of the saffron party has been frequenting the state to corner the KCR government ahead of the 2023 assembly elections.