Andhra Pradesh: A Year On, No Headway in High Profile Vivekananda Reddy Murder Case

The politician, who was chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's uncle, was hacked to death in his own house.

Vijayawada: It has been exactly one year since the brutal killing of Y.S. Vivekananda Reddy, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy’s uncle, on March 15. Jagan’s mother Vijayamma and his cousin, Kadapa MP Avinash Reddy, paid tributes to Vivekananda Reddy at his Samadhi at Pulivendula on Sunday.

At 68, Vivekananda Reddy, the younger brother of former chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, was hacked to death by unidentified assailants inside his house in March 2019, ahead of the assembly and parliamentary elections. He had served as a former minister, two-time MLA and a two-time MP.

Initially, his family members said it was a “natural death caused by cardiac arrest”. Later, it was revealed that Reddy was found murdered with multiple gashes on his head and body, purportedly inflicted with lethal weapons. Bloodstains on the floor had been washed to erase evidence, which gave rise to the suspicion that it was a planned murder hatched by persons who knew him.

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The murder created wide-spread uproar and Jagan, who was then the leader of opposition, suspected the hand of chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his cabinet colleague C. Adinarayana Reddy. Jagan demanded a CBI probe, saying that he had no faith in the state police. The YSR Congress leader also accused Naidu of playing a role in the killing of his grandfather Y.S. Raja Reddy, which took place during the TDP regime in May 1998.

Naidu and Adinarayana Reddy, Jagan’s rival in Kadapa district, suspected that there was an inside angle involving the YS family in Vivekananda’s murder.

Ten months after Jagan became the CM, there appears to be no headway made in the high-profile case of his uncle’s death.

On March 11, the Andhra Pradesh high court directed the state police to hand over the case to the CBI. The order was given in a petition filed by the Vivekananda Reddy’s wife Soubhagyamma and daughter Sunitha

Earlier, Sunitha had met the chief minister, also her cousin, and expressed anguish over the lack of progress in the case even after he came to power. In the petition, she said that she feared the real culprits would go scot-free and innocent people would be made scapegoats. In the petition, she named suspects, including those from within the YS family, and asked as to why her father’s murder was fabricated as “natural death” when it was a clear case of murder.

Speaking to The Wire, Gadikota Srikanth Reddy, government whip and a senior YSR Congress leader, brushed aside the charge that YS family members may have been involved in Vivekananda Reddy’s murder. Regarding the court’s order for a CBI probe, he said, “What we have asked for at the time of the murder has become a reality now. We gave a free hand to the police and we did our best in investigating the case.”

Vivekananda’s daughter also expressed suspicions over the frequent changing of the heads of the speical investigation team (SIT) that was formed to oversee the case. The team, which was constituted by the TDP government, was initially headed by the then-Kadapa SP Rahul Dev Sharma. After the change of government, Abhishek Mohanty was asked to head the SIT. Later, Mohanty too was removed and replaced by K.K.N. Anbhurajan.

N. Chandrababu Naidu and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Photos: PTI Illustration: The Wire

Attack on Jagan: No breakthrough

In October 2018, when he was waiting to catch a flight to Hyderabad, an attempt was made on Jagan Reddy’s life at the Visakhapatnam airport. YSR Congress party leaders suspected Chandrababu Naidu to be behind the “murder conspiracy”. But the TDP claimed that the entire episode was “stage-managed” for “image-building” by Jagan.

Before the SIT constituted by the Naidu government for probing the case got down to its job, the then-director general of police R.P. Thakur presented an eleven-page letter, allegedly recovered from the accused Srinivasa Rao, which said that Rao attacked Jagan to generate sympathy for his “leader”, which he thought would help him become the chief minister.

The police failed to uncover the mystery revolving around the attack, even after Jagan became the chief minister. In the two cases – the attack on him and his uncle’s murder – Jagan expressed a lack of faith in the state police under the TDP regime and demanded a probe by central agencies. Subsequently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) was entrusted with the probe into the attack on Jagan, after he petitioned the then-Union home minister Rajnath Singh.

T. Lakshminarayana, an analyst from Kadapa district, said that it was not that the police lacked the professional competency to carry out their job, but were failing to do it in true spirit because of excessive political interference. Driving his point home, he cited the way the police had been playing into the hands of the ruling party in the current local bodies elections and had unleashed a “reign of terror” on opposition leaders under the YSR Congress rule as an example.

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Cops caught in a political slugfest

The manner in which former chief minister Naidu was arrested and forcibly sent back to Hyderabad under section 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CRPC) after a six-hour drama at the Visakhapatnam airport on February 27 exposed how the police’s functioning has been overshadowed by the party in power. The police remained a silent spectator when Naidu was attacked with eggs, tomatoes and footwear by belligerent YSR Congress workers during his aborted Praja Chaitanya Yatra in Visakhapatnam.

The high court, responding to a petition filed by a former TDP legislator, found fault with the police detaining Naidu under the section 151 of the CRPC and directed DGP Gautam Sawang to take action against the officers responsible for the incident. Naidu, as Jagan had once alleged as an opposition leader, said that the police had been reduced to ‘stooges’ of the ruling party and had resorted to employing ‘khaki terror’ on opposition parties.