Jagan Reddy’s insecurities explain his allegations against Justice NV Ramana
It is rare for a chief minister to write to the CJI against a Supreme Court judge and release the copy to the media. A sense of insecurity seems to have triggered the letter
When Jagan Mohan Reddy broke away from the Congress after the death of his father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in September 2009, because the high command was not agreeable to his demand of being anointed straight away as the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, many thought that the young scion was being unnecessarily unreasonable.
In fact, the Congress leadership is believed to have offered him a berth in the union cabinet as minister of state with an independent charge that Jagan refused to accept. Next, the young Jagan, then only 36 years old, broke off from the Congress to form his political entity that he named YSR Congress. This, after an extended Odarpu Yatra to condole the death of dozens who Jagan claimed had committed suicide as they were shocked by his father’s sudden demise in a helicopter crash.
The yatra, an extended one, took him around the state. But when the Congress leadership asked him to immediately suspend the yatra, he immediately resigned from the Congress and set up his own party. He also resigned his Lok Sabha seat from Kadapa and was reelected with a huge margin of 545,000 votes.
Soon he was caught in trouble with various CBI cases being filed against him for his alleged acts of wrongdoings during the term of his father. Jagan found himself in Hyderabad’s Chanchalguda jail under various charges. It was alleged that Jagan had committed irregularities to the tune of Rs 1172 crore; this was by arranging to provide the favour of the state government in land allotment, mining leases and licenses for new industries. Jagan remained in jail for 16 months after which he was granted bail by a special court in September 2013. The cases however remain pending.
After Jagan was released from jail, he began travelling the state; although many believed that he would win the next election by which time the state would be bifurcated. But this did not happen and he won only 67 of the 175 seats. Chandrababu Naidu was back in power: however, the new state of Andhra Pradesh was smaller in size than the original Andhra Pradesh that had been bifurcated to make way for Telangana.
Caste politics was always prevalent in Andhra Pradesh. With the creation of a new avatar, caste politics intensified. Brahmins have always been a miniscule community, less than half a percentage of the population. The next caste – the Reddys formed about 8 per cent of the population. But they formed the top of society with huge landholdings and were early adopters of education. In the pre-independence days when the Congress party was fighting for freedom, the Reddys joined the party and came to control it. When their rival community in the villages, the Kammas became off age and became economically prosperous, they also wanted a political outfit to represent their interests.
Kammas are very closely knit and marriages among first cousins are not uncommon but they are not more than 5 per cent of the population. Thus, came up the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) that was founded by highly popular cine star N T Rama Rao, a Kamma. He won power but not being cunning his son-in- law Chandrababu Naidu ousted him in a couple of years.
Naidu was the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh between 2014 and 2019, right after the new state was formed. Earlier as chief minister of integrated Andhra Pradesh between 1995 and 2004, he was tremendously powerful and the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee swore by him. This gave him leverage over appointment of judges in the high court and various administrative appointments.
He claims that A P J Abdul Kalam was appointed as President because of his efforts. One of the judges he recommended was his advocate- general and fellow Kamma, Justice N V Ramana who is now standing on the edge of becoming the Chief Justice of India. Even then when he was elevated to the bench, the story doing the rounds was that Naidu was putting up Ramana in the hope that he would end up in the top court (and by implication would help Naidu). But this could be mere speculation.
But in the 2019 elections Jagan was elected to power, winning 151 of the 176 seats in the assembly; the TDP could win only 23 seats. Jagan’s victory is attributed to a long padayatra he undertook that forged an alliance of Dalits, Muslims and Christians headed by the Reddys.
The conflict between the Reddys and Kammas is so deep that Jagan also feels that if Ramana becomes the Chief Justice of India, things will not be so hunky dory for him. According to legal sources in Delhi, Justice Ramana is heading a bench that recently passed orders to the central and state governments and high courts to expedite criminal cases against lawmakers all over the state. This made Jagan apprehensive because his cases are still pending. Hence, he is targeting Justice Ramana goes the story in Andhra Pradesh.
Last fortnight Jagan went to Delhi and met Home Minister Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a highly publicized meeting to discuss about the state’s problems. Immediately after he came back, Jagan through officials released a letter that he had written to the Chief Justice of India S A Bobde that suggested that Justice Ramana had favored Chandrababu Naidu and that his two daughters had bought land in Amaravati (the capital of new Andhra Pradesh) before the site had been declared as Capital.
All hell broke out after the letter became public because this was the first time that a chief minister of a state had penned such a letter and publicized it, targeting a judge slated to head the apex court. Justice Ramana is slated to become the chief justice of India in April 2021 and remain in his position till August 2022.
What will happen next is difficult to predict. In all probability Justice Ramana will become the next Chief Justice of India. But Jagan’s letter opens the floodgates for a new kind of controversy.