Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy remained unfazed even as his government landed in an embarrassing position with yet another Minister getting charge-sheeted in the illegal assets case relating to Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.
He seems to be in no mood to either make Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy resign or drop her from the Cabinet despite a vociferous demand by not only Opposition parties but also from a section of the ruling Congress.
Instead, he is said to be trying to push the ball into the Congress high command's court just as he did when a similar situation arose in August last in the case of Roads and Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao, who was named as an accused in land allotment scandal linked to the Jagan case.
"First, the Special Court has to take cognisance of the CBI chargesheet in which Sabita has been named as an accused. If that happens, we have to see what action the court takes. Only if arrest looks imminent, can the Minister be asked to quit," this was the view Kiran reportedly expressed during an informal meeting with some of his Cabinet colleagues this morning.
It was decided that the matter would be reported to the party high command for counsel as singling out Sabita would have repercussions on other Ministers under the CBI scanner in the same case, a Minister said later.
CBI is keeping the government guessing on its next course of action against Sabita even as it immediately requested the Special Court to issue summons to her along with other accused.
On her part, Sabita was said to have told the CM last night that she did no wrong and had merely implemented the instructions of then Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy (in granting mining leases to Obulapuram Mining Company and Dalmia Cements). Sabita was then Mines Minister.
A handful of Ministers visited the beleaguered Home Minister at her residence today.
"You can prove your innocence in court," was the advice they reportedly offered her and suggested she need not resign in a hurry.
"We are taking legal opinion on the issue. We feel Sabita did nothing wrong," Social Welfare Minister Pitani Satyanarayana said.
While Opposition parties such as Telugu Desam, CPI and BJP were quick to demand Sabita's resignation or her dismissal from the Cabinet, senior Congress leaders like Rajya Sabha member V Hanumantha Rao, too, came up with a similar demand.
"How can we face the people if no action is taken against the accused Ministers? How can different yardsticks be applied to Mopidevi Venkata Ramana (the Minister who resigned after his arrest last year by CBI in Jagan case) and other Ministers (Dharmana and Sabita)? If the Ministers did nothing wrong, then why was Jagan sent to jail?" they sought to know.
"We need to answer all such questions. How can we do that without action against the Ministers," the senior Congress leaders wondered.
Going by the CBI investigations, three other Ministers -- Ponnala Lakshmaiah, Kanna Lakshminarayana and J Geeta Reddy -- too may find themselves in the dock sooner or later.
While the Chief Minister is said to be inclined to take the party high command's view on dealing with the current situation, senior leaders are said to be readying a report on the likely backlash the Congress would face if the accused Ministers were let off.