Arrest on Sunday evening of the son of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S R Reddy, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy by the CBI at the orders of the state High Court has further confounded the already prevailing confusion.
There is political unrest in non-Telengana region of the state where Jagan Mohan’s followers are threatening to create a situation which could threaten the law and order of the state. It is also being speculated that his arrest could also impact the outcome of the presidential election in July suggesting that the Congress MLAs and MPs owing loyalty to Jagan Mohan could vote for the non-UPA candidate.
The entire case needs to be seen dispassionately. It not only represents the political corruption at high places but it also exemplifies the attempt of the political class to mislead people at large and the electorate in particular. Investigation into his various acts of corruption and his subsequent arrest is being projected as an act of political vendetta for evoking popular sympathy for him.
Case of Jagan Mohan has all the ingredients of the political drama whose local adaptations are being enacted in every region of the country. Country’s politics is broadly controlled by powerful political families which have its hold on every level be in Panchayat, district, assembly of parliament.
His father, popularly known as YSR, became the chief minister in 2004 after leading the Congress to victory replacing the Telgu Desam Party whose leader Chandrababu Naidu had remained the chief minister of the state for a decade.
YSR could catch the popular imagination by striking a cord with the people during his three months long walk in 2003 through the state during summer months. He travelled 1475 kms and emerged as a popular leader. His padyatra added to his credibility and popularity. He was 4-times MP from the Lok Sabhaa constituency of Kadapa and was –times MLA from Pulivendula constituency.
In 2004 after becoming the chief minister, the rise of ambitious Jagan Mohan began when he left the state to do business. He amassed wealth by such tactics as pressuring companies to invest in his business in return for various favours from the government in which his father was the chief minister.
It is said that in 2004, when his father was not the chief minister, his total listed assets were to the tune of Rs 1.7 crore. In 2009, after his father had been the chief minister for five years, these assets soared to Rs 77 crore and in 2011 at the time of filing of his nomination for Kadapa byelection, his worth was Rs 365 crore. His business interests spread many areas and he had launched a newspaper as well as a news channel. It is understood that the figure of Rs 365 crore is an understatement.
This phenomenal rise in his assets was brought to the notice of Andhra Pradesh High Court in two petitions filed by senior Congress leader P Shankar Rao and TDP leader Yerran Naidu. On August 10, 2011, the court ordered a thorough investigation by the CBI into the allegations of the two petitioners. The CBI launched country wide searches on his offices and residences on August 18, 2011. Since then, his business partners, officials and minister who conspired to help him to amass wealth have been arrested and investigations have been going on.
While Jagan Mohan successfully avoided his questioning by the CBI sleuths but on May 22 this year it became clear that he would be questioned which led to his arrest on May 27. Jagan Mohan may have possibly escaped the hands of law if he had not shown his political ambition by staking a claim to the seat of Andhra chief minster immediately after the death of his father in 2009. He went on to challenge the Congress leadership.
He floated his own party called YSR Congress and resigned his Lok Sabha seat which he had won in 2009 but retained the seat in a byelection. On June 12, elections for 18 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat are scheduled.
It is being claimed that the timing of his arrest is suspect as he would not be able to campaign for the candidates of his party. Cases of disproportionate wealth are dragging on against political leaders in different courts of the country notably that of former UP chief ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati for years now but no leader has been convicted.
There are doubts in public mind about the CBI but we also have to admit that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the political class to direct and control the CBI particularly when the media is alert and courts are not prepared to sit as mute witness to the loot of the public finds and resources.
The UPA government would have to create an environment in which investigations by agencies like the CBI could be carried out without fear or favour. The Congress owes to the nation, by virtue of being the grand old party, to ensure that corruption from public life could be eliminated from public life. One of the measures could be public funding of the elections and setting up of an effective Lokpal at the centre and passing an enabling legislation for creation of the institution of Lokayuktas in states.
While the ruling UPA has a huge responsibility on its shoulders to clean the stable, the opposition cannot escape from it duties. It should rather must adopt a cooperative approach for creating an environment in which corruption could be reduced if not totally eliminated immediately.