January 18, 2020
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Hyderabad Blues

If the people of Andhra Pradesh were missing "sister sentiment" in their daily dose of movies and serials, it is back with a bang

Hyderabad Blues
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Sister Sentiment

These two words formed the crux of Telugu cinema in the 90s and even now in several Telugu TV serials. This basically defines a story where a brother defends a tortured sibling and yanks her out of trouble with some heroics: when a sister weeps, the audience weeps; when she gets justice finally, the audience cheers. If the people of Andhra Pradesh were missing this facet in their daily dose of movies and serials, it is back with a bang in state politics. The chellama (little sister) factor is now the driving force of the YSR Congress party. As Jagan Mohan Reddy cools his heels in Chanchalguda jail, it is now left to mother Vijayalakshmi and sister Sharmilla to work up sympathy among voters during the party campaign for the June 12 bypolls. Realising that the maa factor alone may not do the trick, the YSR Congress has cleverly initiated Sharmilla into the political arena. An absolute newcomer, Sharmilla is winning over crowds with her appeal to pull her family out of the crisis. "Jagananna is innocent and is being targeted by both the Telugu Desam and Congress for selfish political ends. This is the time for you (voters) to teach both the Congress and TD a lesson. Bring back Rajanna rajyam (YSR rule) and make Jagananna the CM," Sharmilla exhorts voters in every rally. Sharmilla's natural style of speaking and greeting crowds indicate that she is a chip of the old block and that she has imbibed several qualities of her charismatic father, the late Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

Loose Cannon

Jagan's mother Vijayalakshmi has raised doubts over YSR's death in a chopper crash in September, 2009. She has raked up the conspiracy angle at every public meeting since Jagan's arrest. Pradesh Congress Committee president Botsa Satyanarayana has dealt with the allegations in an unusual manner. By going into an offensive mode. Botsa says that a fresh inquiry must be conducted since "people suspect the role of Jagan in the chopper crash." Botsa's angry tone has made some Congress leaders very nervous since they feel that this attack will only backfire and alienate YSR admirers even further. But Botsa, who has proved often that he is somewhat of a loose cannon, is unstoppable.

Targeting Jagan

The Congress is certainly pulling out all stops for the bypolls. Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, PCC president Botsa Satyanarayana, AICC general secretary and union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Rajya Sabha member Chiranjeevi and Nellore LS nominee T Subbarami Reddy were seen together at a public meeting in Nellore. They indulged in a full frontal attack on Jagan and the Telugu Desam was almost forgotten. Azad who said that he'd seen Jagan in Parliament only thrice criticised Jagan for starting a campaign for the CM's post immediately after his father's death. In a democracy, a son does not have the automatic right to inherit the CM's gaddi unlike the royalty, Azad stated emphatically. According to Azad, Jagan's logic that the CBI is probing him only because he quit the Congress is rubbish. "He would have been arrested in the illegal assets case even if he had been in the Congress," Azad emphasises. Kiran Kumar on the other hand says that Jagan must go to jail for 14 years for his deeds while Chiranjeevi indulges in statistics and reels out the number of acres and crores Jagan has swindled from the poor. Vijayalaksmi has not been spared either. Chiranjeevi says that instead of pulling up her errant son, Vijayalakshmi is defending him for his misdeeds and that voters would not sympathise with her. While the top leaders exhibited a good deal of exuberance during the bypoll campaign, their edginess is evident. Azad is quick to stress that the results of the bypolls will not have any impact on the Congress government which, he predicts, will last its full term. Does he too sense an imminent defeat?

Tough Customer

The CBI which was granted custody of Jagan for five days, has been questioning the Kadapa MP but is drawing a blank. Jagan is said to be a tough customer and has so far stonewalled most queries on quid pro quo investments in Sakshi. Even as the CBI team confronted him with evidence of re-routing of money through fictitious companies in Mauritius and Luxembourg, Jagan maintained his policy of limited replies or none at all. Jagan appears to have been coached by his company auditor V. Vijay Sai Reddy who has faced several hours of CBI questioning without giving anything away. Even a 100-day stint in Chanchalguda jail did not break Vijay Sai Reddy. Jagan's lawyers are also allowed to be present during the questioning. Meanwhile, the rush of politicians and aides at Chanchalguda jail has lessened as Jagan is taken out by CBI officials at 10 am and returns only at 5.30 pm. Only the sight of a clean-shaven Jagan emerging in a crisp, clean shirt, smiling and getting into the vehicle has to suffice for his supporters as of now.

Past Imperfect

After Jagan's arrest, the Congress government in Andhra Pradesh is moving fast to distance itself from controversial projects and SEZs allotted during Y. S. Rajasekhar Reddy's rule as CM. It recently cancelled the Brahmani Steels project in Kadapa. The AP government had signed an MoU with jailed Karnataka leader and mining baron Gali Janardhan Reddy's firm in 2007 to set up a steel plant in Kadapa district and provide employment to thousands of unemployed youth. The reason being handed out is that Gali's company had failed to implement the project as per schedule. Brahmani Steels was allotted 14,000 acres of land as per the MoU and was to use iron ore mined by the Obulapuram Mining Corporation in Brahmani Steels. But when Brahmani failed to take off, OMC began exporting the ore it mined thanks to a faulty GO issued by IAS officer Y Srilakshmi who is now in Chanchalguda jail. The CBI probe showed that Srilakshmi as Secretary, Industries wilfully omitted the word 'captive mining' from the GO with OMC thereby allowing Gali to mine and export iron ore indiscreetly.

Disgrace

It is possible that other projects like Vanpic (Vadarevu and Nizampatnam Port and Industrial Corridor) may also face the axe now. Given the fact that Vanpic promoter Nimmagadda Prasad, then Infrastructure and Ports Minister Mopidevi Venkataramana and a bureaucrat KV Brahmananda Reddy are in jail, the Kiran Kumar Reddy government is seeking legal opinion on scrapping the project. Rural Development Minister Manikya Varaprasad has even written to the CM demanding that the lands acquired for the project be given back to farmers who were now facing a crisis of survival. The minister terms the Vanpic project in Guntur and Prakasam districts a disgrace since hundreds of crores had been pocketed by local politicians who acted as brokers to evict farmers.

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