With YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy
now designated undertrial number 6093 at the Chanchalguda Jail in Hyderabad, his mother and the widow of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YSR Reddy will take off from where her son left campaigning for the June 12 by-elections to 18 assembly seats. (Poll: How will Jagan Mohan Reddy's arrest affect his career?
YS Vijayamma is the party's honorary chief; she gave up her fast in protest against her son's arrest yesterday, took over the reins of the party and will begin campaigning tomorrow. Jagan Mohan Reddy was sent to jail by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court yesterday for 14 days. This means that he will be in jail till June 11, a day before polling is held for the 18 Assembly segments and one Lok Sabha seat and so will not be able to campaign.
Jagan Reddy's mother has also written to the Chief Election Commissioner to direct the CBI to release her son in the larger interest of democracy. She has pointed out in her letter that the CBI arrested Mr Reddy on Sunday, May 27, just 15 days before the by-elections. The YSR Congress contends that this is "part of a larger conspiracy" to keep him from campaigning for the by-elections. The YSR Congress has fielded candidates in all the constituencies that are up for grabs. Mr Reddy was drawing a powerful reaction on his tour of areas like Guntur.
"I am writing this letter with great hope that you would kindly intervene (in the matter)... CBI has arrested him (Jagan) on May 27, just 15 days before the by-elections... This is part of a larger conspiracy to deprive his participation in the elections with the sole objective of helping the ruling Congress candidates. They have waited for waited for 270-odd days; they can wait for another 15 days, particularly when there is no possibility whatsoever for tampering with evidence," Vijayamma said. (Read Letter
The by-elections are critical not just for the fledgling YSR Congress - made up largely of Congressmen who joined Jagan Reddy in his rebellious break-up with the party months after his father YSR Reddy's death in a helicopter crash in 2009. They are also important for the ruling Congress and the main Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP).
Jagan Mohan Reddy's arrest so close to polling day could have a big political impact. It could just deliver the seats to Mr Reddy's party in a sympathy wave that Vijayamma will no doubt attempt to drum up. Or, with Mr Reddy's high-energy campaign blitz now out of the way, could give the two big parties a chance to make gains. (Timeline: Jagan Mohan Reddy's battle for survival
Political ananlyst K Nageswar, says, "The CBI and ED probe is not going to tell the people anything new. People are not saying that YSR was not corrupt. They say and ask who is not corrupt. So they don't see much difference between the three main political parties on that issue. So that cynicism on corruption will help Jagan.''
The Congress and the Telugu Desam have had reason to be nervous over the last few days, with Jagan claiming that many of their leaders are waiting to jump into his party. As the CBI questioned him over three days before his arrest, Mr Reddy would arrive for interrogation flaunting rebel Congressmen by his side. A TDP leader, Mysoora Reddy, had breakfast with him on Friday last, was thrown out of the TDP and joined the YSR Congress all on the same day.
Before his arrest Mr Reddy had said, "The government may not fall because Chandrababu Naidu won't let that happen but it is true that both within the Congress and the TDP there are many leaders (who want to join us), but I am very picky and choosy.''
The Congress in Andhra Pradesh has been a divided house fighting battles on several fronts, including Telangana. Politically, for a party that has openly given Jagan Reddy's father, YSR, the credit for bringing the Congress to power in Andhra Pradesh and at the Centre, both in 2004 and 2009, a turnaround to paint their star chief minister black after his son emerged as a threat, has not helped.
Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy says the YSR Congress is lying to earn political mileage. And that YSR's son and widow are using his accidental death to gain politically. He accuses them of being ungrateful for what the Congress did to prop up YSR.
"The basic problem is he has to explain the financial irregularities in his firms. He wants to divert attention from that. The pace at which his party is losing ground in the field is very drastic. To cover up, he is creating drama and he is saying the government is not stable, because some MLAs are coming to us. That is not true. The government is stable," the CM said. (Watch: Andhra CM denies misuse of CBI
YSR Reddy was one of the Congress' most popular leaders in Andhra Pradesh. The case against his son centres on whether as chief minister, YSR misused his office to drive firms to invest in his son's business empire. YSR died in 2009. Referring to his popularity, and the victory he delivered for the Congress in the last state elections in 2009, Vijayamma has said, "YS Rajasekhara Reddy (Jagan's father) won 33 Lok Sabha seats for Congress in 2009. Publicly YSR declared he would work to make Rahul Gandhi Prime Minister in 2014. So her (Sonia Gandhi) son should become PM and my son should suffer in jail?"
Mr Reddy was arrested on Sunday evening after three straight days of interrogation. In jail, he is entitled to a fan; his meals can be home-cooked. (Read: Congress reacts with caution to Jagan's arrest
The court order for his custody came after the CBI's lawyer told the court that Mr Reddy can no longer "masquerade as a victim" and that he had not cooperated during his interrogation over the last three days. The CBI, which has accused the politician of corruption, forgery, breach of trust by a public servant and cheating, had asked to keep him in its custody for 14 days, but the judge sent him to judicial custody for that period instead.
The investigating agency claims that Mr Reddy money-laundered the bribes paid to his business empire by other firms who were favoured by his father, YSR Reddy, when he was chief minister. Opposing Mr Reddy's request for bail, the CBI said that if he is free, Mr Reddy could influence witnesses and tamper with his companies' accounts.
Mr Reddy's arrest has set Andhra Pradesh on edge. He has asked his supporters to stay calm; his party, the YSR Congress, called for a day-long bandh in the state yesterday and a three-day bandh in the East Godavari district. (Read: YSR Congress' statement on Jagan Mohan Reddy's arrest