Facing criticism for inducting two Rajya Sabha MPs from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who were presently undergoing investigation by central agencies under corruption charges, Minister of State (MoS) Home Affairs Kishan Reddy on Sunday defended the BJP's move.
Industrialists YS Chowdary and CM Ramesh, who were considered close confidantes of TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, joined the BJP along with two others, earlier this week.
Chowdary, Ramesh, Garikapati Mohan Rao and TG Venkatesh, who met Vice President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi on Thursday, also passed a resolution to merge the TDP Legislative Party with the BJP.
While stating that two of the MPs were facing allegations of financial fraud, Kishan Reddy pointed out that no chargesheet had been filed against either of the leaders as of now.
"It is totally legal and constitutional under the Constitution of India," he told reporters, citing paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule. The paragraph being cited deals with defection of elected representatives, and says that disqualification on ground of defection need not apply in case of a merger of 2/3rd of the Legislative Party with another.
In reply to the criticism that the BJP had admitted MPs who were being probed by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate, Mr Kishan Reddy said in a press statement that the four MPs were facing some allegations of financial irregularities.
Chowdary had served as a Minister of State in the Modi government till the TDP pulled out of BJP-led NDA over the issue of special category status to Andhra Pradesh.
In November, searches were conducted at his residences and offices by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), on allegations of bank fraud. The ED had taken up the case on the basis of an FIR filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Best & Crompton Engineering Pvt Ltd (BCEPL) and their officials, who allegedly entered into a criminal conspiracy during 2010-2013 for "defrauding Central Bank of India, Andhra Bank and Corporation Bank".
The total loss caused to the consortium of banks due to the fraud was to the tune of Rs 364 crore. According to the ED, BCEPL is a part of Sujana Group of Companies, of which Chowdary is a promoter.
However, Chowdary denied the charges, maintaining that his decision to defect had nothing to do with the cases.
Ramesh, who is also close to Naidu, faced I-T raids with regard to the financial dealings by a company in which he is the director. At the time, Ramesh had alleged that the I-T raids were conducted due to political vendetta.
With both of them now jumping ship, many say that it is a move aimed at saving their skins and stall the investigation into the cases at the very least.
Even in his response to the recent development, Chandrababu Naidu had remarked, "TDP MPs joining BJP is the result of my fight for AP's rights. They had their own personal agendas to address."