The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Warrant wart pops up

Hyderabad, Aug. 4: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is in a spot over his ministers’ run-ins with the law.

A non-bailable arrest warrant was today issued against K. Chandrasekhar Rao, a Cabinet minister without portfolio, for contempt of court.

Singh’s plans to expand his ministry before Parliament meets on August 16 were thrown off track by the development.

The fifth metropolitan magistrate of Hyderabad, M. Gandhi, issued the warrant following the Telengana Rashtra Samiti chief’s failure to appear before the court despite summons. Earlier, Andhra Pradesh High Court had dismissed his plea seeking a stay on the lower court’s proceedings.

Rao is facing a writ petition filed by former party secretary . Prahlad, accusing him of cheating ticket aspirants during the recent elections.

The TRS president is charged with collecting application money from 1,200 aspirants for 107 Assembly and 16 Lok Sabha seats although his party contested only 42 Assembly and seven Lok Sabha seats in alliance with the Congress.

Applicants for a Lok Sabha ticket paid Rs 25,000 and those for an Assembly ticket paid Rs 10,000. For Dalits and tribals, the fee was halved.

Prahlad and others went to court three months ago, before the election results came out.

The magistrate, who took up the case for hearing in early June, had directed Rao to appear in court on July 16. When he did not show up, the magistrate adjourned the hearing to August 4. But after Rao failed to appear again today, the magistrate issued a non-bailable warrant against him. The next hearing is on September 15.

The minister, who is in Delhi, was unavailable for comment.

But party colleague and Andhra Pradesh transport minister Santosh Reddy said: “The media is making a mountain out of a molehill. A disgruntled partyman who did not get a ticket has pressed charges. Like him, all of us also paid for the application. This is nothing new. In the 1999 polls, both the TDP and Congress had priced their applications.”

Although Rao’s supporters are making light of the charges, the warrant could not have come at a more inopportune time for the government at the Centre. One of its ministers, Shibu Soren, had to step down after a warrant was issued against him and is now behind bars. Several others, including Laloo Prasad Yadav, have cases pending against them and have provided fodder for an aggressive Opposition campaign against “tainted” ministers.

The Prime Minister is now likely to put off the proposed ministry expansion, in which he was expected to allot a portfolio to Rao.

Rao’s counsel today made a feeble attempt to file an NBW recall petition in the lower court. “We will file the petition tomorrow,” advocate S. Reddy said.

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