Chargesheet against minister embarrasses Andhra government

Hyderabad, April 9 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Congress finds itself in an embarrassing position after the CBI named Home Minister P. Sabitha Indra Reddy as an accused in a case of disproportionate assets against YSR Congress leader Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy.

The opposition has been baying for blood. And Sabitha offered to quit after the CBI Monday named her accused in the fifth chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case against Jagan, as the YSR Congress chief is known.

Number four in the chargesheet, which names total 13 accused, the home minister has been charged with criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and misuse of office.

Sabitha, as the minister for mines and geology in the YSR cabinet, had allegedly allotted 407 hectares of land belonging to the state in Kadapa district for limestone mining to Eshwar Cements, which was later transferred to Dalmia Cements, which had invested in Jagan’s Bharati Cements.

The CBI believes the allotment of limestone mines were one of the several ‘quid pro quo deals’ under which YSR government granted favours to companies and individuals who invested in Jagan’s businesses.

Jagan, an MP from Kadapa, is the son of late chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, who was popularly known as YSR. Jagan has been in jail since May last year.

Pressure is mounting on Sabitha, who has been charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, to resign. During a meeting with Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy Monday night, she offered to quit.

The chief minister and other ministers, however, advised her to wait and watch before taking a final decision.

Sabitha is the third minister to face charges in various aspects of the case. Mopidevi Venkatramna was arrested May 24 last year. He resigned the same day as excise minister. He was holding the infrastructure and investment portfolio in YSR’s cabinet and had allegedly allotted huge chunks of land to VANPIC, whose promoter Nimmagadda Prasad made investments in Jagan’s firms.

Roads and buildings minister Dharmana Prasada Rao, who was holding the revenue portfolio at the time of the land allotment, was also named in the fourth chargesheet filed by the CBI in August last year. However, the chief minister did not accept his resignation and the state cabinet also refused to give permission to the CBI for his prosecution.

The CBI is also believed to be probing the role of two more ministers who played a key role in clearing files to grant favours to certain companies. Sabitha was close to YSR, who used to always call her ‘Chellamma’ (younger sister). He used to launch all his ‘padyatras’ and election campaigns from her constituency Chevella in Ranga Reddy district.

After the Congress retained power in 2009, YSR made Sabitha the first woman home minister of the state. The 50-year-old three-time legislator is the widow of P. Indra Reddy, who also served as the home minister in N.T. Rama Rao’s cabinet.

Though denying any wrongdoing, Sabitha wants to resign on moral grounds. The chief minister, who reposed full faith in her, wants her not to act in haste, insiders said.

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