Jagan Mohan Reddy’s mother, Vijayalakshmi, kissed and blessed him as he left his residence this morning for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office in Hyderabad, where he is now being interrogated in connection with a disproportionate assets case against him. Mr Reddy was refused anticipatory bail yesterday.
The YSR Congress chief reached the CBI office at around 10:45 am in a black SUV and smiled as he greeted people who had gathered to show their support. This is the first time that Mr Reddy is being questioned by the CBI in the case. Amid fears that he might also be arrested, he has asked supporters to stay calm.
On Tuesday, Mr Reddy said in a letter to the Prime Minister that the Congress, the opposition Telugu Desam Party, and the CBI were conspiring to have him arrested ahead of by-elections in the state, scheduled for June 12. Mr Reddy’s party is fielding candidates for all 18 constituencies which will vote.
Prohibitory orders are in place and there is heavy police deployment in Hyderabad and Cyberabad till May 29 in view of forthcoming by-elections and also as a precautionary measure.
When the CBI asked him to make himself available for questioning today, Mr Reddy had asked the High Court to defer the appointment to June 15. Till then, he argued, he would be busy with by-elections. But the court refused his request. “If the CBI had waited for nine months, what is the hurry now? Why couldn’t it wait for 20 more days,” Mr Reddy told NDTV while campaigning in Guntur district. “I told them that after June 15, I will be available whenever they say. But the CBI intestinally did not approve this. I wanted this crucial time for campaigning,” he added.
Mr Reddy, an MP, is the son of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who died in a helicopter crash in 2009. After his father’s death he split with the Congress and formed his own party, the YSR Congress.
The CBI alleges that while YSR was in office, he conspired with other ministers to influence entrepreneurs to invest in his son’s companies; in return, they were granted licences and other permissions required for their businesses.
The CBI inquiry into Mr Reddy’s business empire and the source of its funds was ordered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in August 2011.
The corruption case against Mr Reddy could affect not just his political fortunes, but that of several other leaders from the party he quit in a huff, the Congress.
One of those leaders, a minister named M Venkatramana, was arrested after seven hours of interrogation on Wednesday. Mr Venkatramana has been remanded to judicial custody till June 7. He resigned soon after from the Congress government. Five other Congress ministers are also being studied for possible collusion.
Violence erupted last evening in his constituency of Repalle with his supporters attacking public buses. Mr Venkataramana was till yesterday the Excise Minister. But he has been arrested for allegedly violating rules to give land to industrialists when he was the Infrastructure Minister while YSR was Chief Minister.