The Supreme Court notice to six Andhra Pradesh ministers on a plea alleging that the Central Bureau of Investigation was not acting against them despite having evidence that they helped former YSR Congress President Jaganmohan Reddy accumulate massive illegal assets has left the Congress government in the state red-faced.
Though the case concerns Jagan, his party was quick to demand the resignation of the ministers -- Dharmana Prasada Rao, Sabitha Indra Reddy, Geetha Reddy, Kanna Lakshminarayana, Mopidevi Venkata Ramana and Ponnala Lakshmaiah -- who continue to remain in the Congress.
The six ministers allegedly helped Jagan, a former Congress leader, to set up his business empire by overseeing procedures, which eventually led to a Rs 365-crore scam that is being investigated by the CBI. Apart from the six ministers, the apex court issued notices to eight Indian Administrative Service officers.
The ministers were working under Jagan's father, Y S Rajashekhara Reddy, when he was chief minister. The case against Jagan states that his father used his office to help promote Jagan's business empire.
Minutes after the SC decision, the Telegu Desam Party sang the same tune as the YSR Congress raising the pitch for the resignation of the ministers involved.
Though the case is against Jagan, who has only posed trouble for the Congress after parting ways with it in November 2010, the Congress says it will continue to defend its leaders. The Congress argued that the decisions, which helped Jagan, were taken when YSR Reddy was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan, however, sought to counter this argument by stating that his father being the CM had nothing to do with the issue. These were decisions that were ratified by the state Cabinet, he maintained.
Defending its ministers, the Congress said that it would be premature to come to a conclusion. The court has sought an explanation and it would be given, it said.
The Congress is well aware that it cannot wash its hands off the case by blaming it on the ministers, who were once loyal to YSR. Even if the decision was taken under the leadership of YSR, the Cabinet had given it a nod. And this has put the Congress in a spot of bother.
The SC notice has left a number of questions unanswered. The YSR Congress would seek to know why the Congress was mum despite having knowledge of the role its ministers played in the assets case. Secondly, why the state government did not open up when the case had come up for hearing before the Andhra Pradesh high court a few months back.
However, the SC order comes as a big relief for the YSR Congress as the focus is now on the Congress, which will have to explain the conduct of its six ministers. It has put to rest for now the speculation regarding the arrest of Jagan. The buzz around his arrest became louder since he started on his campaign trail for the upcoming by-elections in the state.
These elections are a litmus test for both the YSR Congress and the Congress and it is also being seen as a pre-cursor to the assembly elections, scheduled for next year.
For Rediff Realtime News, click here