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Jagan Reddy's U-turn to save himself from CBI probe?

Last updated on: January 3, 2012 11:36 IST

Jagan Reddy's U-turn to save himself from CBI probe?

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Jaganmohan Reddy might not realise it, but he has presented a clinching argument for the urgent need to free the Central Bureau of Investigation of political control. Over the weekend, the Congress rebel sent out feelers for a merger of his fledgling YSR Congress with the party he left just over a year ago.

His motives could hardly have been more transparent: he was close to being taken into CBI custody over an illegal assets case involving Obulapuram Mining Company, owned by fellow Reddy, and old family friend, Janardhana.

Jaganmohan Reddy quit the Congress in December 2010, after he was not chosen as the successor to his father, Y S R Reddy, as chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, following the elder Reddy's death in a helicopter crash.

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Image: Jaganmohan Reddy


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Jagan Reddy's U-turn to save himself from CBI probe?

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But he soon learnt the peril of operating outside the machinery of political power.

The investigation of Gali Janardhana Reddy for illegal mining along the Andhra-Karnataka border produced allegations that Y S R Reddy looked the other way in return for investments in his son's business -- a fact widely discussed in Andhra Pradesh.

The Andhra high court ordered a CBI enquiry into financial links between the two, and Jaganmohan Reddy is being asked to explain payments made by OMC to two companies registered to the same address as his newspaper Sakshi.

Reports suggest that the YSR Congress leader has promised to rally the Reddy caste vote behind the Congress and destroy the rival political base of the Kamma caste, as represented by the Telugu Desam Party. In return, he expects immunity from the CBI's attentions.

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Jagan Reddy's U-turn to save himself from CBI probe?

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It is worth recalling that Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati is demanding that the government call off a CBI investigation into a 2002-03 case in which she was suspected of siphoning Rs 175 crore from a project to upgrade facilities around the Taj Mahal (though, in a bizarre twist, a CBI investigating officer in the case is now contesting elections on a Bahujan Samaj Party ticket).

That case is eight years old, but the CBI is only just readying a charge-sheet against Mayawati ahead of crucial assembly elections.

To be sure, the Congress party has not been the only one to use the CBI as a political bargaining chip -- the matter of Mayawati's investigation, for instance, arose after the Bharatiya Janata Party broke with her in August 2003.

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Image: Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati


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Jagan Reddy's U-turn to save himself from CBI probe?

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Added to this is the fact that the country's premier investigating agency lacks a cadre of its own. Its personnel are seconded from other government departments and the police services to which they must return after a term, a situation that institutionalises its subservience to the government.

So Reddy's self-serving proposal has the great merit of coming at an opportune moment, a valuable reminder to politicians of all hues, and to votaries of an all-powerful Lokpal, of the importance of an independent CBI. The question is whether the government has will ever act on this message.

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