Hyderabad: Jagan Mohan Reddy, chief of the YSR Congress, will spend the next 14 days in a Hyderabad jail. A court today said he will remain there till June 11, a day before by-elections are held in 18 key constituencies in Andhra Pradesh.
With Mr Reddy out of commission, his mother, Vjayamma, has decided to end the fast she began on Sunday to protest her son's arrest by the CBI. She will now lead the party's campaign. Like her son, she has blamed the Congress for using Mr Reddy's arrest to ensure he is not able to connect with voters. In a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, she asked him to intervene and set him free till the June 12 by-polls. In her letter she alleged, "...the CBI is serving the interest of the Congress party." (Read Letter)
The YSR Congress is fielding candidates in all the constituencies that are up for grabs. Mr Reddy was drawing a powerful reaction on his tour of areas like Guntur.
Mr Reddy's father, 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 own 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.
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. (Timeline: Jagan Mohan Reddy's battle for survival)
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, has called for a day-long bandh in the state and a three-day bandh in the East Godavari district. (Read: YSR Congress' statement on Jagan Mohan Reddy's arrest)
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Reddy has denied allegations that the investigation against Mr Reddy is based on checking his considerable popularity. In the last round of by-elections in March this year, The YSR Congress won the seat it contested in. He told NDTV, "Jagan is losing popularity so he is trying tactics to win brownie points. He is diverting attention from financial irregularities by attributing political reasons to the CBI arrest. The CBI works on its own terms. Neither the state government, nor the Central government have got any say in its investigation," the chief minister said.
Mr Reddy found fault with Jagan Reddy's family for lashing out at the Congress, which, he said, had "nourished" Jagan's father and former chief minister YSR Reddy for leadership. He said both Jagan Reddy and his mother Vijayamma were trying to politicise YSR's death in a helicopter accident in 2009 because of the by-elections. He especially took umbrage at Vijayamma hitting out at party president Sonia Gandhi yesterday. (Watch: Andhra CM denies misuse of CBI )
Political commentators say Mr Reddy's arrest and an emotive appeal from his mother might just turn into an electoral advantage for him in the by-elections. (Read: Congress reacts with caution to Jagan's arrest)
PTI has quoted CBI officials as saying that Mr Reddy was questioned for three consecutive days and that his answers to certain investments made by a few companies to Sakshi Television and Jagathi publications, owned by him, were not convincing. "Some routing of funds have been detected from tax havens like Mauritius and Isle of Mann, indicating that there were quid pro quo investments in his TV channel and publication by some companies which were given land in the much sought after Andhra Pradesh Industrial Development Park," the CBI officials were quoted as saying.