Hyderabad: Arms raised in greeting as he repeatedly bowed and waved to the sea of people around him, Jagan Mohan Reddy stepped out of Hyderabad's Chanchulguda jail at about 4 this evening, after 16 months of imprisonment.
The crowd broke into an impromptu dance as the 40-year-old YSR Congress chief came out wearing a white shirt with blue stripes and a big smile. Once he stepped out of the prison gates, he was literally carried to his bullet proof vehicle by supporters.
Then began a five-hour long drive to his residence in Lotus Pond, Banjara Hills; thousands more lined the route. Security personnel had a tough time keeping crowds away from the young leader, who shook hands with several people. A couple of security men carrying automatic weapons sat atop Jagan Mohan's SUV while others cleared the way.
A local court granted bail yesterday to Mr Reddy, after the CBI said it has concluded investigations in the case against him; the agency alleges that private firms and individuals invested in Mr Reddy's companies as a quid pro quo for government favours when his father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.
Mr Reddy quit the Congress in an act of rebellion months after his father died in a helicopter crash four years ago. He launched his own party and demonstrated his popularity last year when his YSR Congress swept by-elections to one Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly seats.
His release from prison is expected to give a big fillip to the movement in Seemandhra - as the coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema regions are together called - against the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out a separate Telangana. The YSR Congress is the only party that has unambiguously taken a stand against the move to bifurcate the state.
In his bail plea, Mr Reddy said he needed to be with the people and lead political protests against bifurcation. The court has, however, ordered him not to leave Hyderabad,
This morning, as his family prepared to welcome Jagan back home, his sister Sharmila said, "We will wash out other parties in Seemandhra." (Watch) She also said that her party is open to post-poll alliances, though it will not align with the BJP.