Allegations of an “Operation Lotus” are raging in Telangana after the police on Wednesday claimed to have detained three persons allegedly caught in the act of bribing four MLAs of the state’s ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to switch sides. As much as Rs 100 crore was offered to a key leader in secret negotiations at a farmhouse, sources said late last night.
One of the MLAs, Pilot Rohit Reddy, who represents Tandur constituency, has been named the complainant in the case and is said to have tipped the police off about the “deal”.
Cyberabad police commissioner Stephen Raveendra told NDTV the TRS MLAs had called the police, saying they were being “lured and bribed to change parties”.
“They said they were offered big money, contracts and posts to switch parties,” he said.
Apart from ₹ 100 crore for the main leader, ₹ 50 crore was offered to each MLA, sources said. After the police raid, the four TRS MLAs were taken to the home of Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao, the TRS chief.
Those detained are Satish Sharma, alias Ram Chandra Bharati, a priest from Haryana’s Faridabad, D Simhayaji, a seer from Tirupathi, and a Hyderabad-based businessman, Nandakumar.
Sources say the investigators are working on leads to establish the that these three were working at the behest of a BJP leader.
Satish Sharma and D Simhayaji are seen in photos with BJP leaders but it is not yet established whether they were acting on behalf of the party. Videos were also viral on social media of Nandkumar with Union tourism minister Kishan Reddy but he denied any conspiracy by the BJP to buy MLAs and said several people got photographed along with him and that did not establish any ties beyond that.
The men had come to Hyderabad on fake identities, said the police chief. Sources suggested that one of them was possibly in the Maharashtra coup in which the Shiv Sena-led coalition collapsed after a key leader, Eknath Shinde, broke away and formed a new government with the BJP.
Sources in the BJP denied the allegations, claiming there is “no reason” for them to offer astronomical amounts for four MLAs when the ruling party (TRS) has a comfortable majority.
Telangana BJP leaders DK Aruna and the BJP MP from Nizamabad, D Arvind accused Chief Minister Rao or KCR of staging the “bribe” incident to deflect attention from the high-stakes assembly by-polls in Munugode on November 3.
“It is drama. KCR understood that the TRS is losing in Munugode. So they orchestrated this drama,” BJP leader Vivek Venkataswamy said.
Since 2019, there have been claims that the BJP wants to launch an “Operation Lotus” in Telangana, where the TRS enjoys a comfortable majority. Operation Lotus is the term used by the opposition to describe the alleged bribing of ruling party MLAs by the BJP to topple governments.
Recently, Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) claimed that the BJP was trying to lure away its MLAs in Delhi and Punjab.
In August, there were reports of a BJP leader claiming that around 18 MLAs of TRS would soon join the BJP.