In a major development in the run-up to the Nandyal bye-poll in Andhra Pradesh's Kurnool district, police arrested more than 20 people on Friday for allegedly distributing cash.
According to media reports, the police seized close to Rs 4 lakh in cash and detained the accused at 1 town, 2 town and 3 town police stations.
The police refused to reveal which party the men were associated with.
However, following the arrest, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) pointed fingers at the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). TDP said that the men belonged to the opposition party, and were distributing cash for votes.
"All the people who were caught were from outside Nandyal, and belong to the YSRCP. Investigate their background and it will be proven. Not one of them was from TDP. They have been caught red-handedâ€ť, Andhra Agriculture Minister Somireddy Chandramohan Reddy told TV9.
"The YSRCP has been indirectly feeding the money, and these people have been distributing. The party has been going to the homes of people and even taking bank account numbers to transfer the money," he alleged.
"You have been caught and exposed. At least now have some shame," the minister said.
Meanwhile, the YSRCP alleged that the police had picked up innocent party workers, along with some unidentified persons.
Speaking to TV9, YSRCP candidate Silpa Mohan Reddy's brother Silpa Chakrapani Reddy said, "They are spreading rumours that our party is distributing cash. It is all planted. They have caught people walking around with Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 in their pockets and framed them. Any person will have a few thousand rupees in his pocket."
"They are showing this as proof. In some instances, they even put the money themselves in our party workers' pockets and claimed that they were distributing cash. The TDP has stooped to a new low, because they are scared of losing the Nandyal election", Chakrapani Reddy added.
Further details on the arrests are awaited. The Nandyal bye-poll is due to be held on August 23.
This comes one day after actor-politician Nandamuri Balakrishna was caught on camera giving money to voters during his campaign in Nandyal on Tuesday.
Photos and videos showed the Hindpur MLA bribing voters while travelling on the campaign vehicle. Minister Akila Priya, TDP MLA candidate Bhuma Brahmananda Reddy and Mounika Nagi Reddy are present by his side.
Returning officer for the Nandyal bye-poll V Prasanna Venkatesh said that he had received a complaint on the matter, and referred it to the Election Commission for instructions.
The by-election in Nandyal is necessitated by the death of the sitting legislator Bhuma Nagi Reddy, one of those who defected to the TDP. His daughter Akhila Priya, who too won as a YSRCP candidate from Allagadda constituency in the same district is now a Cabinet Minister.
Both the parties have made the by-election a prestige issue, as it is being seen as a referendum on the three-year rule of the TDP. It is also expected to indicate which way the winds are blowing in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
The Election Commission said that Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs) will be used in the bye-elections in all the polling stations