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Bright future awaits YSR Congress, NOT Jagan Reddy

Last updated on: February 1, 2013 09:58 IST

Bright future awaits YSR Congress, NOT Jagan Reddy

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Vicky Nanjappa

Many experts are firm that YSR Congress party will sweep the next Andhra Pradesh elections; however, it seems highly unlikely that its chief Jaganmohan Reddy will disentangle himself from the legal mess he finds himself in anytime soon. Vicky Nanjappa reports.

It has been almost eight months since the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy over various disproportionate assets cases. The son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy -- also a Member of Parliament from Kadapa -- has undergone several rounds of questioning by the CBI for alleged embezzlement of disproportionate assets amounting to Rs 3,000 crore after he was arrested on May 27, 2012.

After falling out with Congress after the death of his father, Jagan launched the YSR Congress party which took Andhra Pradesh by storm. However, with the political escalation came a host of corruption cases against him and his associates, which finally landed him in Hyderabad's Chanchalguda prison.

Jagan's opponents thought his imprisonment would be the end of his newly-launched party. However, it appeared that his opponents read this wrong and the manner in which his mother Vijayamma and sister Sharmila took over the party gave the opposition plenty to worry about.

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Image: Jailed YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy greets his supporters as he arrives at the CBI office in Hyderabad
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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Fresh ray of hope for YSR Congress party

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Both his mother and sister were armed with sympathy and did manage to pull in the crowds in large numbers during their regular 'padayatras' and the pundits had already begun predicting that they would ensure a sweep during the next assembly elections in the state.

Jagan had always maintained that his mother would lead the party in case CBI filed cases against him and he was arrested. After his arrest, Vijayamma visited several constituencies in the state where she spoke about the injustice that had been meted out to her. "I lost my husband and my son is in jail" was something with which Vijayamma was successful in striking an instant chord with the voters.

As such, the YSR Congress party -- which was in doldrums after Jagan's arrest -- saw a fresh ray of hope in Vijayamma. They believed that with her clean image and also the sympathy factor she would be able to lead the party to victory even if Jagan was in jail at the time of the elections.

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Image: Jagan's mother Vijayamma (right) and sister Sharmila speak to the media outside Hyderabad's Chanchalguda prison
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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YSR Congress may sweep next Andhra polls

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However, Vijayamma sought the support of her daughter Sharmila who set out on a padayatra on October 18, 2012. The yatra was to cover 3,000 kilometres and 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh. The crowds that she managed to pull in were impressive and there was already talk of a discord within the family as many believed that she would take over from Jagan.

Her speeches always commenced with "I am Rajanna's daughter and I am here to seek your support and blessings." She had clearly managed to impress the crowd, and many, at least for the curiosity of watching YSR's daughter and mother, came out on the streets in large numbers.

On December 17, the yatra had to be stopped as Sharmila suffered a ligament injury on her right leg. She underwent a keyhole surgery on December 18 and was advised rest.

The YSR Congress party says that she would resume her yatra in the first week of February, only if the doctors permit her to do so.

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Image: YSR Congress leader Sharmila gestures during her march in Kurnool district
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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Jagan remains in tight spot

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Although the party is running smoothly at the moment, everyone in the YSR Congress feels that it could do much better with Jagan. However, looking at his case records, it appears to be a bit difficult for him to get bail immediately.

Even if he is out of bail, he will be under constant pressure from the investigating agencies as there are a host of charges against him.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has charged him on various counts, that include, Indian Penal Code Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 477A (falsification of accounts) and also Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The CBI says it has a watertight case against Jagan and has filed four chargesheets against him so far. The allegations are numerous against him and his associates. It is said that when YSR was the chief minister, there were nearly 20 orders passed which had benefitted companies run by Karnataka's mining baron cum politician Gali Janardhan Reddy, currently in jail for his role in a multi-crore illegal mining scam, who also has abundant stake in Andhra Pradesh.

It further states that the controversial Obulapuram Mining Company, Vadarevu and Nizampatnam Port and Industrial Corridor (Vanpic) project promoted by industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad, and Ramky Pharma were given reserve forest land in Visakhapatnam district. It also alleges that as a result of these orders Aurobindo Pharma and Hetero Drugs got lands in SEZs.

The other allegation is that Jaganmohan Reddy, who runs the Jagathi Publications, was connected to the Vanpic project in which industrialist Nimmagadda Prasad was allotted 15,000 acres of land. It is said that Prasad had invested Rs 350 crore in Jagathi publications.

Further the allegation is that two firms from Kolkata had invested Rs 135 crore in Jagathi Publications and the CBI is ascertaining whether these firms were just fronts for Jagan Reddy.

The CBI alleges a criminal conspiracy hatched during the time of YSR through which Jagan's firms also those of close to him had benefitted monetarily.

The chargesheet has also named Jagan's financial advisor Vijay Sai Reddy, former minister Mopidevi Venkatramana Rao, bureaucrat K V Brahmananda Reddy, Nimmagadda Prakash of Vanpic Projects Pvt Ltd, Jagati Publications Pvt Ltd, Raghuram Cement Corporation Pvt Ltd and Bharati Cement Corporation Pvt Ltd, Carmel Asia Holdings Pvt Ltd and Silicon Builders Pvt Ltd.

It has also brought under the scanner several leaders of the Congress who were part of the decision making during YSR's tenure as chief minister.

In addition to this Jagan and his associates are also facing the heat from the Enforcement Directorate which has registered a case of money-laundering. The ED is investigating the manner in which Jagan allegedly pumped in and moved funds into or through the companies owned by him.

The CBI had also questioned Board of Control for Cricket in India chief and India Cements managing director N Srinivasan in connection with one of the cases involving Jagan. It was alleged that India Cements had made investments in Jagan's companies.

The CBI alleges that this was done as his company had received a large allocation of water from the Krishna and Kagna rivers during the YSR regime.

CBI sources say that they need some more time and had sought an outer limit of March 2013 to complete the probe.

"The case is watertight and we are in the finishing stages. It is a Rs 3000 crore scam and requires careful monitoring," a CBI official pointed out on conditions of anonymity.

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Image: Looking at Jagan's case records, it appears to be a bit difficult for him to get bail immediately
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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An extremely difficult battle awaits Jagan

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Jaganmohan Reddy faces an extremely difficult legal battle. He has moved the courts on four occasions seeking bail and also a directive for speedy investigation, but they have all been rejected.

He appears to be cornered from all ends and the CBI has been vehemently opposing his bail plea. However, Jagan's legal team considers this to be a political conspiracy and have maintained before court that his case is no different from any other businessman.

"In any business there are investments from various quarters including foreign companies and his record is clear," his counsels have stated.

Regarding the projects approved during the YSR regime, the argument is that it was a clear-cut policy decision and it had the approval of the state cabinet.

Jagan has made several attempts seeking bail. Even on Thursday a special court extended his remand until February 14.

The biggest setback for him on the legal front was when his plea was turned down by the Supreme Court on October 5 2012. While rejecting his bail plea, the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai noted that he could apply for bail only once the CBI completes its investigation.

The apex court took view of the fact that the scam was worth Rs 3,000 crore and it needed to be closely investigated, and releasing him prior to the completion of the investigation would hamper the probe considering the high-profile nature of the accused.

The bench took into consideration this view and held that the contours are much larger in this case. The CBI sought time to complete the investigation and stated that it needs time till the end of March, but also assured that it would try to expedite its proceedings.

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Image: Jagan Reddy addresses a public rally at Koduro village in Andhra Pradesh's Krishna district.
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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Jagan will likely have to make way for Vijayamma

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On January 24, Jagan's bail was rejected by the Andhra Pradesh high court in view of the directions given by the Supreme Court. During the arguments, Jagan's legal team had argued that a time-frame ought to be given to complete the investigations.

Justice B Seshasayana Reddy while refusing to grant bail also said that the court did not have the jurisdiction to fix a time-frame for the investigation.

The special CBI court had observed while hearing his bail plea on December 4, "Jagan is lodged in Chanchalguda central jail here (in Hyderabad) since May 28, 2012, should not ask for bail at this stage". The judge also said the Supreme Court has not fixed any time-frame for completion of the investigation in the case and added all the courts in the country should be bound by the apex court orders.

Most experts point out that YSR Congress will form the next government in Andhra Pradesh. The Congress and the Telegu Desam Party are obviously a worried lot. However, the dream of YSR Congress supporters to see Jaganmohan Reddy as the chief minister is unlikely to come true, considering the numerous charges and the gravity of the investigation against him.

Until Jagan clears himself from this humongous legal mess, he may well have to make way for his mother Vijayamma to take over as the likely next CM of the state.

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Image: Vijayamma and Sharmila address a public rally in Srikakulam
Photographs: SnapsIndia

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