Hyderabad: BJP leader B L Santhosh had known the main accused in the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLAs poaching case for a long time and they frequently chatted on WhatsApp about convincing other leaders to switch to his party, a Telangana government-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has submitted in the high court.
In ‘evidence’ presented before the court Wednesday, which was accessed by ThePrint, the SIT claimed that the “most important” conspiracy meeting took place on 15 October at Santhosh’s residence in Delhi — a “government quarter” — with most of the accused.
Ramchandra Bharati alias Satish Sharma is the prime accused in the case. Bharati along with the other two accused — Hyderabad businessman Nandu Kumar and Simhayaji Swamyji, a priest from Andhra Pradesh’s temple town Tirupati — were arrested in October after they allegedly tried to lure four MLAs of the ruling TRS to join BJP. Telangana Police had picked up the three ‘BJP agents’ from a farmhouse on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
Though there were allegations that Bharati and the two others offered as much as Rs 100 crore to the four TRS MLAs, no cash was seized during the operation.
On Thursday, the Telangana High Court granted conditional bail to the three accused in the ‘poaching’ case which is being investigated under the watch of Hyderabad Police Commissioner C V Anand.
The SIT said that it obtained photographs of the accused at Santhosh’s house during the main “conspiracy meeting”, their travel documents from when they went to Delhi to meet him, and video of Santhosh’s house from a mobile phone of a individual identified as Munjagalla Vijay Kumar.
Vijay Kumar, who had also travelled to Delhi to meet Santhosh along with the accused and was also questioned by the SIT, had jumped from the Congress to BJP, it added.
A purported photograph of Santhosh and Bharati when they met in Haridwar on 11 April was also presented as evidence.
Ahead of next year’s polls, Telangana is seeing a political slugfest between the ruling TRS and the opposition BJP. Both parties had accused each other of distributing cash and liquor in last month’s Munugode assembly bypoll.
Santhosh, the BJP general secretary (organisation), did not respond to ThePrint’s calls and text seeking comment. This report shall be updated as and when he responds.
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‘Plot to destabilise TRS govt’
Broadening the investigation, the SIT had last week named Santhosh and Tushar Vellappaly as the fourth and fifth accused in the case. Vellappaly, the chief of Bharat Dharma Jana Sena in Kerala, had contested against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in Wayanad in 2019.
Vellappaly had moved the high court urging it to declare Telangana’s SIT investigation process as unconstitutional. He also requested that the case be transferred from the SIT to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Much before Vellappaly, the BJP’s Telangana unit had sought transfer of the case to the CBI immediately after the arrests were made in October. The court, however, denied the request.
In the remand report filed immediately after the arrests, the police mentioned that they obtained ‘WhatsApp chats’ between Bharati and Santhosh on how he mentioned that as many as 25 MLAs were ready to jump ship to join the BJP in Telangana.
The remand report said that the chats were with a certain ‘Santhosh BJP,’ which — according to the police — was none other than the BJP general secretary (organisation).
Prime accused Bharati, who is also facing separate cases in Hyderabad in connection with a fake passport, had sent a message to Santhosh in April to inform him about the ‘Telangana operation’, it said.
The police, meanwhile, also claimed that the accused were hatching a plot to “destabilise” the TRS government in Telangana. “There have been calls, both regular and through WhatsApp, with B L Santhosh. The accused had called him to give updates on the situation in Telangana,” a police officer told ThePrint, not wanting to be named.
During the course of the investigation, the SIT had served notices to Santhosh for questioning but the Telangana High Court stayed the notices till 5 December. Santhosh has so far not appeared before the SIT.
Separately, Bharati, Kumar and Simhayaji also approached the Supreme Court challenging the high court order refusing to move the probe to CBI. The apex court had asked the HC to look into the request. The SIT, overall, named seven accused in the case which also included a doctor from Kerala, as well as an advocate.
(Edited by Tony Rai)
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