Mopidevi’s arrest sends other ministers into tizzy

The arrest of Andhra Pradesh Excise Minister Mopidevi Venkataramana by the CBI Thursday, in connection with a corruption case related to YSR Congress leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, has sent some other ministers into a tizzy.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has already questioned Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy and Roads and Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao in the Jagan case, while the role of three other ministers is also under the agency’s scanner.

Venkataramana, the first minister in the state’s history to be arrested on charges of corruption while in office, was arrested soon after he appeared before the CBI sleuths for questioning for the second consecutive day. He has been charged with corruption, cheating, criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.

All the six ministers were holding different portfolios in the cabinet of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s late father. They had allegedly issued certain orders granting lands, licenses and concessions to companies that invested in Jagan’s firms.

Sabita, who was holding the mines portfolio, was questioned by the CBI on May 18 with regard to licences given to some cement companies.

Dharmana, who was minister for revenue in the YSR cabinet, was grilled by the investigating agency in April.

Minister for Major Industries J. Geeta reddy, Minister for Information Technology Ponnala Lakshmaiah, and Minister for Agriculture K. Lakshminarayana may also be questioned by the CBI with regard to the government orders they issued benefiting certain companies.

The Supreme Court in March issued notices to the six ministers and eight Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, asking them why their role should not be probed in issuing 26 controversial government orders during YSR’s tenure.

After YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009, his rivals – both within the ruling Congress party and in the opposition – demanded probe into the decisions taken by his government.

On the petitions of some Congress and TDP leaders, the Andhra Pradesh High Court last year ordered a CBI probe into the assets of Jagan as well as into the Emaar-APIIC township scam.

The CBI booked Jagan and 72 others in the case. None of the ministers figured in the first information report (FIR) but their names cropped up during the investigations.

The CBI has so far arrested one senior IAS official each in Emaar case and in illegal mining case involving former Karnataka minister G. Janardhana Reddy. A couple of other IAS officials figured in the charge sheets as accused. The agency has questioned about a dozen top bureaucrats in the three cases.