The arrest of Jagan Mohan Reddy in Hyderabad has sparked off an intense political debate as to which party would cash on this development in the by-elections for 18 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat scheduled to be held on June 12 in Andhra Pradesh.
After the court’s order that Jagan will stay in Jail till June 11, one day before the poll and that means he will not be able to campaign for his party, the YSR Congress, the political situation in the state has become fluid as the main political plank centers around corruption verses sympathy wave in the by-election.
YSR Congress has no real face other than Jagan Reddy and the 39-year-old is their star campaigner. He has proved to be a tour-de-force as a campaigner, able to harness the massive popularity of his father enjoyed in areas like Guntur and other districts.
His political opponents, the Congress and the TDP are busy calculating the impact of his arrest on their performance in the ensuing elections.
The by-elections present an opportunity for the YSR Congress to prove it is a third force in Andhra Pradesh politics. Jagan had led YSR Congress to victory in five out of seven seats it contested in the last assembly by-elections held in March.
YSR Congress alleges that Jagan is being politically victimized and the CBI that is acting on behest of the Congress to prevent its victory. It expects that his arrest may translate into sympathy wave in its party’s favor.
The TDP too expects to gain from Jagan’s arrest. "The YSR scam is much bigger than the 2G or Commonwealth Games scams and the people will teach YSR Congress a lesson," said Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu. He is hoping to protect TDP’s turf as the main opposition party in the state.
In 2004 and then 2009, it was YSR who brought the Congress to power in Andhra Pradesh, earning him much goodwill and public recognition from his party.
Jagan Mohan Reddy took over the reins of the party after his father’s untimely demister in a helicopter crash in 2009. He demanded to become the Chief Minister and as precedence cited Rajiv Gandhi’s succession case, but the Congress high command ignored his repeated pleas.
He broke from the Congress in 2010; 14 months after his father’s death and floated his own party the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu (YSR) Congress in 2011.
Jagan resigned his Kadapa Lok Sabha seat in 2010 that he won on Congress ticket in 2009, and went on to contest the by-elections in 2011, which he won as YSR Congress candidate.
In August 2011, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered an investigation into Jagan’s property based on a case filed by Shankar Rao, a Congressman and several other leaders from the Telugu Desam Party.
The investigation revealed that Jagan had amassed assets beyond his usual means of income during the term in power of his father. He is accused of conspiring with his father to dole out favours to companies which invested in his businesses in a quid pro quo arrangement.
The disproportionate assets case pertains to the Vadarevu and Nizampatnam Ports and Industrial Corridor (VANPIC) deal. The promoter in the VANPIC deal has allegedly to have invested Rs 850 crore in the business of Jagan for land allotment made to the VANPIC project by the then YSR regime.
The cases investigated by the CBI have accused Jagan of cheating, conspiracy and breach of trust by a public servant. Commuting on it, Jagan issued a statement saying he will fight this battle legally and will not bow down to the political games being played by the Congress and the TDP.
The by- election campaign is now being spearheaded by Jagan’s mother in his absence and his arrest has triggered a sympathy wave in favor of YSR Congress.
It is widely speculated that Congress has lost the script with the arrest of Jagan, while some think it is a poly to prevent YSR Congress from making further inroads in Andhra Politics.
Which political party is really going to gain in this triangular contest is uncertain but if any anti YSR Congress votes are there then it may go to the TDP and not to the Congress. The advantage of Jagan’s arrest at the moment looks to be swinging in favor of YSR Congress.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai.He can be contacted at [email protected]