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TRS MLA poaching case: Telangana cops maintain unusual silence

Hyderabad: The Cyberabad police here is maintaining an unusual silence over the ‘Operation Moinabad farmhouse’ linked to poaching of TRS MLAs that was busted a few days ago. The cops arrested three persons linked to the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on charges of trying to allegedly lure four MLAs from the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to defect and join the saffron party.

According to the cops, the BJP-linked accused reportedly promised huge sums of money, central government contracts and prominent posts to the TRS MLAs within the party for jumping ship. However, what is unusual is how tight-lipped both higher and lower rung cops have been ever since the incident transpired two days ago.

The arrest at the farmhouset took place in Moinabad under the Cyberabad police’s jurisdiction and comes less than a week before the upcoming crucial Munugode bypoll in Telangana. It has been necessitated after ex-Congress MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy quit and joined the BJP.

On October 26 at around 8.30 pm, lower rung police officials tipped-off local area reporters about the police raiding the farmhouse at Aziznagar in Moinabad. Primarily, the reporters were told a raid was done on a gambling case. However, when the media reached the place, they came to know about a ‘special operation’ pertaining to alleged poaching of TRS MLAs.

Soon, news flashed on television channels about the raid, and television crews from news channels rushed to Moinabad to cover the case. Among the higher officers to reach the spot was DCP Shamshabad, R Jagadishwar Reddy (who stayed away from the media) and later Cyberabad police commissioner Stephen Raveendra.

All that the Cyberabad commissioner told reporters was based on information from TRS MLAs, that they were being allegedly lured with money and other things, the police raided the place and caught three persons.

Since the briefing, neither the Cyberabad commissioner or any other officials interacted with the media on the case. A day later, the whole media fraternity tried to contact police officials to obtain information. However, many were not able to get information on progress of the investigation. Eventually, the media had to contend with an FIR copy circulated in Whatsapp groups, which was based on a complaint by Tandur TRS MLA Rohit Reddy).

Usually after such a big bust (wherein TRS MLAs claimed that they were promised Rs 100 crore to defect), cops hold press conferences and an official press note is shared. However, the fact that the police preferred to stay mute on the issue has raised many eyebrow. “As a practice, even in a small case where a few hundred kilograms of ganja is seized, the police sends out media invites and releases big notes with pictures,” said a reporter from Hyderabad who did not wish to be quoted.

A senior police official working in Telangana police said this time higher-ups might have preferred to stay away from the media as they did not want to get caught in any ensuing political mudslinging (between the TRS and BJP). The other reason could be that the police does not want to show their cards, and might be maintaining confidentiality.

On Thursday, the Cyberabad police arrested the three accused formally. The accused are: a priest from Faridabad Delhi named Ramachandra Bharati alias Satish Sharma, a Hyderabad based businessman named Nanda Kumar, and Simhayaji Swamy of Tirupati. The three persons, linked to the BJP, were taken into custody by the police on Wednesday night from the farmhouse.

According to the police, the four TRS MLAs were identified as Rega Kantha Rao, Guvvala Balaraju, Beeram Harshvardhan Reddy and Pilot Rohit Reddy. They told the police that they were contacted by certain people, claiming they were from the BJP. The MLAs claimed that they were asked to defect from the TRS and to the BJP.

The development comes just days before the Munugode by-poll, which will be held on November 3. The three accused reportedly offered the TRS MLAs prominent posts, contracts and huge cash following which a raid was conducted on the farmhouse.

TRS Tandur MLA Rohith Reddy on whose complaint the police booked a case, claimed he was threatened with ED and Central Bureau of Investigation raids if he did not agree to join the BJP. He further stated he was asked to accept Rs 100 crores as well.