Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is following in the footsteps of his father, the late Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, on at least one count: allowing a close aide to run the government.
Soon after his landslide victory in 2019, Jagan appointed Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy as his political advisor. Sajjala Reddy is a native of Pulivendula, which happens to be the hometown of the YSR family. He stood by Jagan’s wife, Bharati, when Jagan was in jail, and steered her media house, Sakhi, out of financial trouble.
Sajjala Reddy began his career as a journalist in a local language daily before he was appointed one of the editorial directors of Sakshi. His journey from a journo to CM’s advisor seems to be inspired by the career graph of KVP Ramachandra Rao, who was an adviser to Jagan’s father and chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
KVP first met Jagan’s father, YSR, at the KMR Medical College in Gulbarga, Karnataka, and their friendship carried over to politics. Soon after YSR became the chief minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh in 2004, he appointed KVP as his chief adviser. KVP remained a major power centre during YSR’s regime, playing a key role in political appointments, postings of IAS and IPS officers, and awarding contracts.
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On April 2, 2014, KVP was indicted by a US grand jury for his role in a transnational corruption case relating to a mining contract granted by the state government during YSR’s tenure.
Today, Sajjala is said to wield similar influence in Jagan’s government. Critics like rebel MP K. Raghurama Krishnama Raju have accused Sajjala of reducing the council of ministers to figureheads.
Raghurama’s diatribe came in the wake of allegations that Sajjala had overstepped his mark on the issue of implementing revised pay scales for government employees. When the employees grew restive over denial of wage revision, he reached out to union leaders with a promise to implement recommendations by November. In doing so he bypassed the Finance Minister, Buggana Rajendranath Reddy, completely.
Sajjala is also said to have sidelined the home minister on issues of law and order, and the energy minister by addressing issues like power tariffs.
Is the CM feeling insecure?
Critics of Jagan say that, unlike his father, the CM is reluctant to empower his government and party colleagues, and leaves almost everything to his adviser. Sajjala spends most of his time either at Jagan’s residence at Tadepalli or the Chief Minister’s office at Velagapudi.
Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee working president N Tulasi Reddy told The Federal: “Sajjala’s extra-constitutional authority comes from the CM, who is reluctant to transfer powers to his cabinet colleagues and his party leaders.”
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He blamed “fear and insecurity” on part of Jagan for the present state of affairs. “Jagan probably thinks Sajjala, who has no political base, does not present a threat. That could be why he allows him to run the government on his behalf,” Tulasi Reddy said.
Jagan’s coterie earlier consisted of three key people, political analyst M Yugandha Reddy told The Federal.
Y. Vijayasai Reddy, the party’s chartered-accountant-turned Rajya Sabha member and co-accused with Jagan in the disproportionate assets cases, and YV Subba Reddy, Jagan’s uncle and chairman of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), were the other two.
The Yuvajana Sramika Rytu Congress, or YSRC, is divided into three zonal committees, covering Rayalaseema, south coastal and north coastal regions. While Sajjala is in-charge of the Rayalaseema region, Vijaya Sai and Subba Reddy head north and south coastal regions, respectively.
According to sources, the three leaders summon the collectors of respective districts and review development works in their regions.
Yugandhar Reddy, who covers the ruling party as a senior journalist of Sakshi daily, said even ministers and lawmakers approached the zonal committee conveners seeking their interventions in various matters.
A senior official from the state secretariat at Amaravati’s Velagapudi told The Federal, “I was aghast to find Sri Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy reviewing the status of pending issues under the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, 2014, which was convened by then chief secretary, Adityanadh Das, a couple of months ago.”