Andhra Polls: Cong, YSRC Sparring Over YSR's Death

Andhra Polls: Cong, YSRC Sparring Over YSR's Death

Their slanging match on the issue of corruption hasn't yet ended, but the ruling Congress and the YSR Congress have now got into a high-voltage sparring game over then Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy's death.

The YSRC has tactfully raked up YSR's death as an "emotional" issue that could generate "sympathy" and eventually translate into votes in the June 12 by-polls to one Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly constituencies in Andhra Pradesh.

The Congress is displaying equal vigour in hitting back at its rival, making the game interesting.

The chopper crash is the new addition to the ongoing slugfest between the Congress and the YSRC in the run-up to the by-elections.

As she took charge of the YSRC's poll campaign following her son Jagan's arrest in the disproportionate assets case, YSR's widow Vijaya began articulating the "conspiracy theory" in the helicopter crash in which her husband was killed.

Till then there was not much noise in the Jagan camp over the chopper crash though occasionally it raised "doubts" over the "accident" that happened on September 2, 2009.

But now, with the noose tightening around her son and YSRC president Jagan on the corruption issue, Vijaya apparently chose to make a fresh issue of the chopper crash in what is being seen as a clear attempt to garner sympathy.

"YSR (on the fateful day) himself asked (the officials concerned) why a chopper that was not used for three-four months was being used that day.

There are several doubts over this," Vijaya claimed, as she addressed a road-show in Payakaraopet constituency today.

"On September 3, 2009, I asked my son what could have happened (in the chopper crash). He told me, 'unless power is in our hands, we can't get to the truth.' He told me 'unless the state and Central governments determinedly probed, the truth will not come out. Even if the truth is known, it will not be revealed' as power is in their hands," Vijaya sought to explain, asking people if they too believed in the (conspiracy) theory. 

Interestingly, Jagan is now sharing jail space in Chanchalguda with the same officer K V Brahmananda Reddy who, as the then managing director of AP Aviation Corporation, arranged the ill-fated Bell 430 helicopter for YSR's trip to Chittoor.

(Brahmananda, an Indian Railway Accounts Service officer, was handpicked by YSR himself for the APAC post though he had no eligibility.

The officer is now in jail in connection with Jagan's disproportionate assets case).

The sudden attack by the rival camp caught the Congress leadership on the defensive initially but it was rather quick to hit back, saying it was a dubious ploy to "create a controversy" to garner votes.

"It is 'immoral and unethical' on part of Vijayamma to create an unnecessary controversy now.

She never raised any doubts soon after the accident and in fact blamed bad weather for the crash," PCC president Botsa Satyanarayana recalled.

Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy expressed his government's willingness to order a "fresh investigation" into the Bell 430 crash if YSR's family had any records to substantiate their "doubts".

Incidentally, a two-member expert committee comprising former Director General of Civil Aviation H S Khola and former director of Special Protection Group M R Reddy conclusively established that "stormy weather was the only reason that resulted in the crash of the Bell-430 helicopter.

"Except that there is no evidence of anything," they said in a 110-page report submitted to the state government in February 2010.

The CBI, which also probed the crash, corroborated the expert committee report but the controversy refuses to die down.

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