With the Congress high command dropping unmistakable hints that it wanted them out, it was only a matter of time before Andhra Pradesh Home Minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy and Roads & Buildings Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao turned in their resignations. Ms Reddy stands as an accused in the CBI’s charge sheet for irregular allotment of a limestone mining lease to Dalmia Cement, an investor in Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s companies, as Minister for Mines in 2008. Mr. Rao is accused in a similar case of giving hundreds of acres of land to the Vadrevu and Nizampatnam Ports and Industrial Corridor (VANPIC), whose promoter has invested his money in Jagan’s Sakshi newspaper. Both ministers have strongly protested their innocence, saying they had only discharged their constitutional duties as ministers in the erstwhile cabinet of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. Having eased out Ashwani Kumar and Pawan Kumar Bansal from the Union cabinet and kept graft tainted leaders out of the Siddaramaiah cabinet in Karnataka, the Congress was in no position to show mercy towards lesser political mortals in Andhra Pradesh. Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy too made a strong pitch to save the duo as a reward for remaining loyal to the party when others had left the Congress and flocked to Jagan’s side. Predictably, his argument cut no ice. Loyalty is all very well but with elections approaching, the ruling party can hardly afford to be seen as tolerant towards corruption.
Though the courts will have the last word on the charges against Ms Reddy and Mr. Rao, this is a classic case of the chickens coming home to roost for all those who abetted YSR in bending the law for personal benefit. Of course, at the centre of the entire imbroglio is Jagan, who will complete one year in jail on May 27, pending completion of the CBI’s investigation into the charge that he has amassed huge, unaccounted wealth thanks to favours doled out to rich investors by his late father. The tough line taken by the high command against its ministers is also a signal to Jagan that there will be no light at the end of the tunnel for him unless, of course, he reaches out to the Congress before the 2014 Assembly elections. The CBI today stands accused of deliberately delaying its investigations in spite of the eight-month deadline set by the Supreme Court in 2012. The Congress’s problem is that the longer it keeps Jagan inside so as to weaken him politically, the greater is the likelihood of other ministers in the AP government getting caught up in the corruption investigations. Already, three more ministers are in the line of fire, having received Supreme Court notices for orders issued by the YSR regime.