On March 15, 2019, in the run up to general elections in Andhra Pradesh, 68-year-old Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, Chief Minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s uncle, was found dead at his Pulivendula residence.
Vivekananda, an ex-MP and minister, was the younger brother of former Chief Minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (YSR). And, Jaganmohan Reddy is YSR’s son. The members of Y.S. family initially said it was a natural death, but investigations later proved it was a gruesome murder.
Jagan Reddy, as a young opposition leader, accused then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of killing Vivekananda and demanded a CBI probe, saying “he lacked faith in the state police machinery”. But Naidu counter-attacked, saying the murder was a result of disputes within the Y.S. family.
Citing an instance of knife attack on him at the Visakhapatnam airport earlier, Jagan Reddy even accused Naidu of masterminding an attempt to eliminate him, like the way he “succeeded” in killing his grandfather Y.S. Raja Reddy in 1998. Incidentally, Naidu was the Chief Minister at that time as well.
Jagan’s YSR Congress rode to power in 2019 with a landslide victory. However, there has been no progress in the Vivekananda Reddy’s murder case so far. Suneetha Reddy, Vivekanand’s daughter, met Jagan after he assumed charge as the Chief Minister and expressed anguish over the fate of her father’s murder probe. Disappointed with the slow pace of investigation, Suneetha moved the Andhra Pradesh High Court and got the case transferred to CBI.
Suneetha told the High Court that she is apprehensive about the way investigation has progressed, recalling the presence of “key” members of Jagan’s family at the scene of crime and their attempts to fabricate it as a case of natural death. Her insinuations pointed to an inside angle within the YS family, corroborating the allegations of Jagan’s rivals.
In this context, the CBI’s questioning of Rangaiah, an eye-witness, who was a watchman at Vivekananda’s house, is said to have yielded vital clues. The probe hinted at the involvement of Jagan’s close family members in the crime, say media reports. If the CBI probe reaches its logical end, Jaganmohan Reddy may find himself in an embarrassing situation.
The incumbent Chief Minister is said to be doing his best to remain in the good books of the mandarins of the South Block in Delhi, expecting some breather in the two vital CBI cases. In the process, he is seen to be quite soft in situations that warrant an aggressive posture, especially when it comes to extracting maximum benefits from the Centre for Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan’s rivals say he is crawling before the NDA top brass when asked to bend, that too at the expense of state’s interests. His perceived docile postures have worked to the disadvantage of the state, which was promised several benefits by the Centre before bifurcation.
The Union government’s main promises that remain unfulfilled are ‘special status’ for Andhra Pradesh, completion of Polavaram project with a ‘national project’ tag, amicable settlement on sharing river waters with Telangana among others.
The Centre’s posturing on the Polavaram project and the inter-state tussle over river waters between the sibling states are a few instances that expose Jagan’s overt compulsions.
During the ongoing Monsoon Session of Parliament, Union Minister for water resources Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, in reply to a question raised by YSR Congress MP V. Vijayasai Reddy, clearly said that the Centre will only fund the irrigation component of the Polavaram project, leaving the heavy burden of relocation & rehabilitation (R&R) cost to the Andhra Pradesh government. The rehabilitation and relocation involving more than two lakh people, mostly adivasis, from the submerged villages, is estimated to cost a little over ₹33,000 crore. The main dam, irrigation component in the parlance of Shekhawat, costs around ₹20,000 crore. The NDA’s latest stand is in contravention to the Union Government’s earlier promise to bear the full cost of Polavaram project by treating it as a ‘project of national importance’.
Irrigation experts feel it is unlikely that the project will materialise without completing the R&R process. The state government, with its poor financial condition, will find it difficult to bear the burden. However, it will be a big shame for Jagan if he fails to complete the Polavaram project, because, after all, it was the pet project of his father, Rajasekhar Reddy.
Jaganmohan Reddy was a different man when he was in the opposition. He launched a three-day Jal Deeksha at Nandyal in Kurnool district in May 2016, targeting the then Naidu government for its failure to get the Centre to resolve river water disputes with Telangana. Reddy accused the TDP government of having “mortgaged the state’s interests” for sharing ]power with the NDA.
As the chief minister, Jagan, however, remained silent even as the NDA government at the Centre usurped the issue of irrigation water, which is a state subject, by issuing a notification defining the contours of the Krishna and the Godavari river management boards.
The Centre’s notification leaves little space for the apex council — in which the chief ministers of Andhra and Telangana are members — to settle the disputes between the two states through dialogue.
On the other hand, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, unlike Jagan Reddy, has adopted an aggressive stand for redrafting of the Bachawat Tribunal to suit irrigation interests of his state.
The ruling YSR Congress government also remained silent when the NDA government decided to sell out Visakhapatnam Steel Plant to private entities, a highly emotive issue for the people of Andhra Pradesh.
The YSR Congress’ protests at the start of every Parliament session, demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh, have turned out to be a ritual with no results.
In contrast, Jagan was more aggressive when he was in the opposition. “The Chandrababu Naidu government failed to realize the special status as it is more concerned about sharing of power with the Centre. You give us 20 Lok Sabha seats. We will bend the party that will come to power at the Centre and get it to accord the status,” Jagan had said before coming to power in 2019.
People also delivered 22 out of 25 seats in the 2019 Parliamentary elections to Jagan’s party, which was more than what he had asked for. But the demand for a ‘special status’ for Andhra seemingly remains a dead letter on Jagan’s agenda.
Jagan’s captive vote bank mostly constitutes Muslim and Christian minorities, with whose support he catapulted himself to power. But the two communities were disheartened when Jagan backed the controversial CAA (Citizienship Amendment Act) in Parliament.