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Who is Thushar Vellappally, accused by KCR of poaching TRS MLAs?

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Convenor of the NDA in Kerala and head of the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena, a BJP ally, Vellappally wields enormous political influence across party lines

Jeemon Jacob

Kochio,UPDATED: November 8, 2022 6:25 PM IST

Archival photo of Thushar Vellappally (in brown)

By Jeemon Jacob: Thushar Vellappally, who has been named by Telangana Prime Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) as one of the main conspirators in an alleged plot to get four of his party lawmakers to join the BJP in exchange for a bribe of Rs 250 crore, is considered a very influential politician in Kerala. Vellappally, 52, is the chairman of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the state and also chairman of the Bharath Dharma Jana Sena (BDJS), an ally of BJP in Kerala.

Thushar, who has refuted KCR’s accusations, is the son of Vellappally Natesan, general secretary of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a community from Ezhava. Thushar had unsuccessfully fought Congress leader Rahul Gandhi from Wayanad in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket. He only got 78,816 votes.

KCR alleges that the agents who met the four TRS (Telangana Rashtra Samithi) MLAs as part of the BJP’s ‘Operation Lotus’ also had contact with Thushar Vellappally. On November 3, KCR released video and audio clips to back up its claim. The alleged plot was foiled with the arrest of a priest from Haryana’s Faridabad, Satish Sharma alias Ramachandra Bharati; Simahyaji, a priest from Tirupati; and Nanda Kumar, a businessman from Hyderabad.

The four TRS MLAs allegedly provoked in the attempt to overthrow the KCR government are pilot Rohith Reddy, who represents Tandur constituency, Rega Kantha Rao (Pinapaka constituency), Guvvala Balaraju (Achampet) and Beeram Harshavardhan Reddy ( Kollapur).

When releasing the audio/video ‘evidence’, KCR had claimed that the BJP’s national leadership was behind the plot. He claimed that the saffron party is planning similar operations in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan. But KCR has not disclosed how much cash has allegedly been seized by police in the poaching controversy.

Vellappally said on Nov. 5 that he was a businessman and had no part in the alleged overthrow plan. “I never met the said TRS lawmakers or discussed anything about these MLAs joining the BJP. Let them (KCR) produce evidence against me,” he said.

Vellappally is believed to exert influence among powerful politicians across party lines. In 2019, when he was arrested in the UAE in a case of checks worth crores, Kerala’s chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had caused some kind of surprise by asking the intervention of the Union government for his release. Pinarayi’s move was thought to be an attempt to appease the Ezhava community, which makes up 26 percent of Kerala’s population. Pinarayi is said to have close ties to Thushar’s father, who had supported the prime minister during the Sabarimala protests in Kerala.

Several controversies have dogged the Vellappally family. In 2020, they were charged with complicity in suicide by the family of the late SNDP leader KK Maheshan. Based on the complaint, a court in Alappuzha ordered that Thushar and his father be detained in the case. They have yet to be taxed.

In 2002, Swami Saswathikananda, head of the Sivagiri dog and a spiritual guru of the Ezhava community, had mysteriously drowned in Aluva. Thushar’s political rivals had claimed he was involved in the death, but police investigations revealed nothing.

A BDJS leader, who is at odds with Thushar, claims that given the “circumstantial evidence”, KCR’s claim could well be true. “The Faridabad priest who was arrested has connections in Kasargod. Zohar is known for playing it safe, just like his father. The whole controversy has given him “operator” status at the national level, the leader claimed, requesting anonymity.

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