It may be bad days for the Congress party in Andhra Pradesh. Even after the Income Tax department raided rebel Congress leader Jaganmohan Reddy’s business organizations, an adamant ex-Congress MP and former AP chief minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy’s son, putting up a brave front, is all set to enter the fray for forthcoming by-election to Kadapa Lok Sabha Parliament constituency instead of contesting from Pulivendula Assembly seat vacated by his mother Y S Vijayamma, reports B VIJAYABHASKAR RAO in VISAKHAPATNAM
WHILE TROUBLE is mounting on former Congress MP Jaganmohan Reddy, who turned 38 on December 21, with an investigation by the Income Tax Department, there are indications that he will return to the Lok Sabha and concentrate on making new friends among the non-Congress parties.
It may be recalled that 15 of Jagan’s companies are under IT scanner for alleged tax evasion and are also being investigated for divesting its stake even before the companies had started production. But what’s interesting is that investigations in these alleged irregularities began only three weeks ago just around the time that Jagan quit the Congress. What the IT department is primarily probing is how the share prices shot up in such a short time and how he paid an advance tax of Rs 84 crore in September 2010 which is under scanner.
According to sources, Jagan’s partners bought equity in his firm even before production and then Jagan offloaded his equity to a French firm Parficim and earned around Rs 416 crore. Also, the prices of his shares shot up by almost 60 times within a matter of just four years. However, the Congress has distanced itself from the investigations surrounding Jagan. “We have no role to play in the probe,” said a senior Congress leader. “Jagan has nothing to hide with respect to the investigation on tax evasion. He has filed his Income Tax legitimately and he is not aware of the investigations,” said a source close to the former MP.
Till recently, Sakshi television channel promoted by Jagan was rather discreet in attacking the Sonia and her son Rahul, now that he is out of the Congress, the “freedom of expression” has become bolder and open, and the media house is virtually ripping apart the duo. Close on the heels of its earlier controversial news analysis programme which was titled ‘Hastha Gatham’ (Congress is a passé) that hastened his exit from the party, the Sakshi channel aired another programme on last week which was titled ‘Hastha Khatham’ (Congress is decimated) on the eve of the Congress party’s plenary.
The channel minced no words in making mincemeat of Sonia Gandhi’s leadership and Rahul Gandhi’s inefficiency in the wake of latest exposure by Wikileaks website about the US perception about their abilities and loyalty to India. It went on exposing a series of scandals and high-level corruption under Sonia Gandhi’s regime. It concluded with the prediction that the party will be wiped out in the 2014 elections.
In the meantime, huge turnout of people at Jagan’s meetings in Kadapa and groundswell of sympathy for his family have apparently prompted him to change his decision to contest as an MLA. His aides have advised him against sending his mother to Parliament as she may not be able to handle her responsibility as an MP. However, he may change his plans at the last minute depending on the strategy to be adopted by the Congress. “The ruling party is trying its best to retain its support base in the district but with little success,” a close camp follower of Jagan said. In the meantime, the Congress is toying with the idea of fielding Jagan’s uncle and agriculture minister Y S Vivekananda Reddy from Pulivendula once his term as MLC ends in March. Jagan’s mother is likely to seek re-entry to the Assembly from the same seat.
The ruling party is said to be scouting for a suitable candidate for the Kadapa LS seat and sounded out Health Minister D L Ravindra Reddy. The Minister has not made up his mind. Meanwhile, former MLA N Varadarajulu Reddy was also approached to contest the bypolls. A close aide of Jagan expressed doubts that the Congress may have an “unwritten understanding” with the TDP to damage the chances of the former MP. Jagan is likely to announce the name, flag and constitution of the new political party at a public meeting he plans to address at Idupulapaya some time in February second week.
What it may be termed as a boost to Jagan’s camp, former minister Konatala Ramakrishna said that there were bad days ahead for the Congress with the exit of Jagan from the party. Addressing a public meeting comprising fans of Jagan in the constuencies of Paderu and Araku Valley in Visakhapatnam, Ramakrishna said that the Congress had lost power for two decades in the state and it was Y S Rajasekhar Reddy who revived the party in the state in the 2004 elections.
During five years, YSR launched several welfare schemes for the poor which brought him back to power for the second time in the 2009 elections. Unfortunately, his untimely death created a vacuum in the state and people who loved him, reposed their faith in Jagan. But the Congress, misled by some veteran leaders, objected to his ‘Odarpu Yatra’ and finally created conditions to force him to resign from the party.
“The Congress will have a tough time in the days to come since Jagan has a strong base in the grassroots,” opined Ramakrishna. Several leaders had lost confidence in the Congress due to recent developments and were backing Jagan, he said. He also said that Jagan would create a history in the days to come and appealed to people to make his padayatra scheduled to be launched in Paderu and Araku Valley on January 4, a success.
Meanwhile, the Telangana Congress leaders are not very happy with the new chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy as he is an out and out anti-Telangana. Senior Telangana leader and former minister V Purushottam Reddy said the Congress high command should make introspection on changing the guard in the state. “The state Congress is in a state of chaos and confusion. It is basically because some leaders who had no understanding about the state politics are taking key decisions in Delhi,” he said.
He described the chief minister as a duck taken out of the magician’s hat. “Just like a magician displays his empty hat to the audience and then suddenly takes out a duck from it, the Congress high command has brought in Kiran Kumar Reddy as the chief minister. The people do not know much about him. At the same time, even Kiran Kumar Reddy is not being given complete freedom to take decisions,” he criticized.
In yet another development, stating that the Congress party came to power for the second time in the state with the efforts of former YSR, actor couple Jeevitha and Rajasekhar expressed their full support to Jagan and criticized Congress party leaders, and accused them of hatching a conspiracy to split the YSR family. “The Congress in the state has no future without YSR family members”, they said. They stated that the Congress has no charismatic leader after the death of YSR except for his son Jaganmohan.
Stating that the former Kadapa MP had charisma and leadership qualities to mobilize the people, the couple described him as a dynamic leader and the future Chief Minister of the state. The couple said that Jaganmohan Reddy had taken up the Odarpu Yatra as per the promise he had made at the grave of his father. However, the Congress High Command found fault in Odarpu Yatra, and imposed restrictions on it in a bid to alienate him from the party, the actor-couple charged. The couple said that they would meet Jaganmohan soon, and work loyally for his yet-to-be-named party.
Following Chandrababu Naidu, Jagan also went on a fast on the banks of river Krishna at Seethamma Padalu area for 48 hours for the cause of farmers, last week and political pundits say that the step is to woo the farming community, which can help him in the general elections. In the meantime, Chandrababu Naidu continued his indefinite fast at the hospital where he was shifted after being arrested by police, prompting his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to call for a statewide shutdown. Naidu, whose indefinite fast to demand a relief package for farmers entered the fourth day, refused to undergo treatment or take fluids at the NIMS.
What IT documents reveal
– Jagan holds 49 per cent stake in Bharti Cement
– French Company Parficim holds 51 per cent stake in Bharyi Cement
– Equity was sold to Chennai based companies before company started production
What IT is investigating?
– Massive rise of Jagan’s share prices in a short period of time
– Advance tax of under Rs 84 crore in September 2010
– 15 companies, including Bharti Cement and Jagruti Publication probed, ie, How companies divested stake even before start of production
Also appeared in THE VERDICT WEEKLY