In a jail in Chanchalguda in Hyderabad, Jagan Mohan Reddy, as of last evening, is prisoner number 6093. A court has ordered that he will stay here till June 11, one day before by-elections are held for 18 assembly and one Lok Sabha seat.
That means Mr Reddy will not be able to campaign for his party, the YSR Congress, named after his father, who died as chief minister of the state in 2009. The case against Mr Reddy, being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), says that YSR misused his office to pressure companies to invest in Mr Reddy’s expansive businesses. Mr Reddy has been accused of cheating, conspiracy and breach of trust by a public servant.
Mr Reddy’s mother, Vijayamma, has said she will lead the party’s campaign, starting Wednesday. But the party cadres are worried – Mr Reddy has proved himself to be a tour-de-force as a campaigner, able to harness the massive popularity his father enjoyed in areas like Guntur. The YSR Congress has no real face other than Mr Reddy. His mother will appeal to voters to support him – the party has positioned his arrest as the ruling Congress’ way of preventing his victory in the election. Mr Reddy exited the Congress in 2010, 14 months after his father’s death and after repeated appeals to be given a larger role in the party were ignored by its leaders.
So his confinement may help both his former party, the Congress, and the Telugu Desam Party or TDP, headed by Chandrababu Naidu. The latter acknowledged today that he expects to gain from Mr Reddy’s arrest. “The people will teach Jagan a lesson,” he said. The corruption case against Mr Reddy was passed on a petition filed by a Congressman and supported by TDP members. “The Jagan/YSR scam was bigger than the 2G or Commonwealth Games scams,” Mr Naidu said, referencing two swindles that allegedly operated as public-private partnerships between politicians and entrepreneurs, and have created political storms in recent months.