Is Congress ready for Reddy

Written by Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | Updated: May 29 2012, 08:07am hrs
Novelist Upamanyu Chatterjees debut novel English, August is a no-holds barred account of an IAS probationers sojourn into an interior district of Andhra Pradesh, named Mandanapalli. Many may consider the western district of Kadappa as a kind of a prototype on which descriptions of Mandanapalli were modelled. They would have been better served had they watched some old Westerns to know what life in Kadappa was really like, and why Jaganmohan Reddy has tread the path that he has.

Kadappa, the western gateway to the Tirumala Hills housing the Tirupati Venkataswamy temple, combines the scrappy ethos of the Wild West with the feudal trappings of mofussil India.

Jaganmohan Reddys grandfather, YS Rajareddy was brutally murdered (according to one account, hacked to death) while in police custody. He had been implicated in a few murder cases in his time. Jaganmohans father YS Rajashekhara Reddy, considered a little milder than his own father, became famous for flinging his slippers at PV Narasimha Rao and then Andhra chief minister K Vijayabhaskar Reddy. When the Congress party threatened disciplinary action against him, Reddy famously declared that he would not allow either Rao or Reddy entry into Kadappa after that.

When YS Rajashekhara Reddy passed away in an air crash in 2009, the Congress should have known better than to expect his son Jaganmohan Reddy to slink quietly into oblivion.

Jaganmohan Reddy, an otherwise indifferent student, had already shown a defiant streak to his father, when he had demanded the Lok Sabha seat of Kadappa in 2004, but had been denied this by both his father and the Congress high command. Jaganmohan Reddy had then moved to Bangalore, where he tried to set up a business in media, mining and assorted real estate dealshelped by his fathers uninterrupted rule in Andhra Pradesh and networks cutting across party lines in Karnataka.

At the time of his fathers death, Jaganmohan Reddy had already filed advance taxes up to R187 crore and ended up paying double the amount in the final reckoning for 2009.

The Reddy family of Pulivendula was not accustomed to playing second fiddle, certainly not after they had accrued both money and muscle. A senior Congress minister, who too had lost a family member in an air crash a few years ago, recalled meeting Jaganmohan Reddy to condole his fathers death. When advised by many to have patience, to become adjusted in the Congress hierarchy and spend the time taking care of his bereaved mother, Jaganmohan Reddy replied starkly my mother has also told me that this is the time for me to stake claim.

He reportedly referred to former chief ministers Chenna Reddy and Vijay Bhaskar Reddys sons, who were not adjusted by the Congress. I dont want to end up like them, he said to his fathers advisor KVP Rao, as he went on the road on an Odarpu (condolence) Yatra to get public support.

Rao, AICC in-charge for Andhra Pradesh, Veerappa Moily and even Sonia Gandhi had counselled patience to Reddy, to no avail. Instead, Reddy quit the party, fought by-elections in Kadappa, which he won by a landslide, and floated his own YSR Congress.

His fathers legacy of taking no prisoners helped him. Many Congress MLAs in the 2009 Assembly were first-timers or had been nurtured by YSR. They proved their loyalty to Jaganmohan Reddy and have sent the Congress into panic mode. Investigations into his business deals, many of which are admittedly highly dubious, have led to his arrest by the CBI.

The CBIs actions have come as a godsend to Jaganmohan Reddy. Having lost his father, and abandoned by his party, he was now being hounded by law enforcement agencies reportedly at the behest of the party his father had once led. Corruption and wheeling-dealing were only incidental.

Before he was arrested, he held a conference with his close aides. He was advised to appear defiant in the face of the arrest, to appear strong in his body language. Otherwise people will not consider you a leader, he was told. The tough Reddy clan from Kadappa is wearing its colours.

nistula.hebbar@expressindia.com