The Cyberabad police on Thursday filed a criminal case against three people who were detained from a farmhouse in Hyderabad on Wednesday night with a “huge amount of cash” for allegedly trying to poach four Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) lawmakers into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Hours later, the state BJP moved the Telangana High court seeking directions to transfer the police case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Alternatively, it sought the constitution of a special investigation team (SIT) to carry out a fair probe into the matter. The party has denied any attempt to “buy MLAs” saying the raid was “stage-managed”.
The FIR was lodged based on a complaint lodged by TRS MLA Pilot Rohit Reddy — one of the four MLAs allegedly lured with huge cash — at Moinabad police station under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 171-B r/w 171-E 506 r/w 34 (offering bribe for electoral gains) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 8 of Prevention of Corruption Act,1988. HT has seen a copy of the FIR.
The three accused – Nanda Kumar, owner of Deccan Pride Hotel in Hyderabad; Swami Ramachandra Bharati alias S Satish Sharma from Faridabad; and Simha Yajulu from Tirupati, were yet to be produced before court for judicial remand at the time this report was published.
On Wednesday night, a police team led commissioner Stephen Raveendra had conducted a raid at a farmhouse in Aziznagar, on the outskirts of Hyderabad and detained three people while they were trying to lure TRS MLAs Rega Kantha Rao (Pinapaka), Guvvala Balaraju (Achampet) and Beeram Harshvardhan Reddy (Kollapur) and Pilot Rohit Reddy (Tandur) into the BJP.
“It was the four MLAs who gave us information about the covert operation. They told us that they were contacted by certain people who asked them to defect from the TRS and join the BJP. In return, they were offered prominent posts, contracts and huge cash,” Raveendra told reporters after the trio was detained.
In the FIR, the MLA Reddy alleged that Nanda Kumar and Ramachandra Bharati were both from the BJP and had asked him to resign from the TRS to contest the next elections from their party. For this, the duo offered Reddy ₹100 crore as well as civil contracts of the Central government and other benefits at the Centre with monetary benefits, the complaint states.
“On October 26, 2022, the accused again contacted him and informed that they will arrive in the afternoon hours to his farmhouse located at Aziz Nagar, for negotiations and also informed him to mobilize some other TRS MLAs for offering them bribe of ₹50 crore each to join BJP,” the FIR read.
Reddy further alleged that the accused had threatened him saying that if he refused to join BJP, they would foist criminal cases against him and raids would be carried out by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The BJP’s plea in the high court seeking a transfer of the case or formation of the SIT came in response to the allegations in the FIR. The petition was filed by state BJP general secretary Gujjula Premender Reddy.
Stating that the FIR was “totally biased and unfair, registered with a sole intention to frame the leaders of the BJP and damage its reputation”, Premender Reddy said the allegations were made in the run up to the bypoll to Munugode assembly seat — slated to be held on November 3.
“The TRS has been trying to disrupt the campaign of the BJP. The complaint is politically motivated and was made with a motive to defame and demoralise the BJP in the by-election at the behest of chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao,” the BJP leader’s plea added.
On Thursday, the TRS’s social media wing shared pictures on social media of Union tourism minister G Kishan Reddy with one of the accused and other party leaders — in an attempt to prove association between them.
Reddy, however, refuted the allegations saying neither he, nor his party, had made any attempt to poach the four TRS legislators. He added that it was an attempt to defame the BJP.
“What is the need for us to purchase four MLAs by spending ₹400 crore? How can the defection of four MLAs to the BJP help the party win the Munugode by-election? All this is being done to defame the party,” he said.
Owing to his post, people often take pictures with him, Reddy said, adding that this did not mean he had any association with the accused.
He asserted that if any MLA from any party wants to join the BJP, the leadership would first insist on his resignation. “There is no need for the party to offer money to any MLA,” he said.
State BJP president Bandi Sanjay alleged that the “entire poaching drama was scripted and enacted at Pragati Bhavan” — chief minister KCR’s camp office — to defame the BJP ahead of the Munugode bypoll.
Earlier in the day, TRS leaders and cadres held demonstrations in different parts of Telangana, including Munugode, and burnt effigies of the BJP for allegedly trying to poach their MLAs.
Later in the evening, TRS working president K T Rama Rao issued a statement asking the party leaders not to make any statements or comments on the issue since it was now sub judice. “These dogs, who were caught red-handed, continue to bark. Let us not bother to respond to them,” he tweeted.