Uncle murdered, cousin implicated: CM Jagan's YSRCP haunted by a murky case

The CBI’s findings came as a vindication for Vivekananda’s daughter Dr Suneetha Narreddy who has been in great distress for the past four years, becoming distrustful of her own relatives and cynical of the investigation process.
A collage of YS Vivekananda Reddy, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and YS Avinash Reddy
A collage of YS Vivekananda Reddy, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy and YS Avinash Reddy
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Four years after YS Vivekananda Reddy — Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy's paternal uncle — was found brutally murdered in his own house, the CBI filed a damning affidavit in the Telangana High Court implicating the ruling family. The murder was initially sought to be passed off as a heart attack, but quickly started unravelling with the discovery of blood and injuries on the body. As more details emerged, the case left observers aghast. At the centre of the murder plot, according to the CBI, was Vivekananda Reddy’s own blood – his cousin YS Bhaskar Reddy and nephew YS Avinash Reddy. The alleged motive? Political power.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s 38-page affidavit, filed on February 22 this year, indicted the AP Chief Minister’s uncle Bhaskar Reddy and his second cousin Avinash Reddy (Bhaskar Reddy's son). Avinash is currently a Lok Sabha member representing Kadapa, while Bhaskar is the former head of the YSR Congress Party in Pulivendula mandal, the Yeduguri Sandinti (YS) family’s stronghold. As Avinash is predominantly based in Hyderabad, it is his father who unofficially calls the shots in the Kadapa Parliamentary constituency. 

The CBI’s findings came as a vindication for Vivekananda’s daughter Dr Suneetha Narreddy, who has led an incessant fight for a fair probe. It was because of her efforts that the case was transferred to the CBI after being stonewalled by CM Jagan, her first cousin. Suneetha has been in great distress for the past four years, becoming distrustful of her own relatives and cynical of the investigation process. The CBI has also charged some of her father’s closest aides with his murder. 

Importantly, the charges are a big setback for CM Jagan, who is already seen as having a compliant relationship with the Union government. The indictment of his relatives — one of them a YSRCP MP — has given serious ammunition to the Opposition. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is now accusing Jagan of shielding the murderers of his own uncle. The opposition has alleged that his recent Delhi visits were to plead with the BJP’s top brass to exonerate his relatives.

A month ago, on Vivekananda’s fourth death anniversary, his daughter Suneetha told the media that she wanted the cycle of political violence to end. Without naming anybody, she said that in the past, some people had trivialised her father's murder, asking her if “such things aren’t normal in Kadapa and Kurnool” — regions in Andhra’s Rayalaseema with a deadly history of factional and political violence. “My efforts are to prove them wrong, by ensuring that such incidents don’t happen again,” Suneetha said. 

Her father’s murder shook the state as it happened less than a month before the 2019 Assembly polls. And now, in the run-up to the 2024 Assembly election, the investigation could end up significantly influencing electoral outcomes. 

The investigation so far

Vivekananda, a former MP, was found dead in his home in Pulivendula on March 15, 2019. Initially, YSRCP spokesperson Vijayasai Reddy, as well as Jagan's family-run newspaper Sakshi, claimed that the cause of death was a heart attack. 

Only when some of Vivekanda’s close associates pointed out that there were blood stains and injuries on his body, his death was formally registered as a murder. A blame game ensued between TDP and YSRCP. Sakshi even carried a story with the headline ‘Narasura Raktha Charithra’ (‘The bloodstained history of the demon Nara’), blaming Nara Chandrababu Naidu – the CM at that time — for the murder. The TDP in its turn alleged that Jagan’s family had killed Vivekananda for sympathy votes. To date, TDP claims that the murder was crucial to the YSRCP’s landslide victory in the 2019 election. 

The murder case was initially investigated by three different Special Investigation Teams (SITs) of the AP police constituted by the TDP government. While Jagan had initially sought a CBI probe, he withdrew the demand after coming to power and merely reconstituted the SIT. 

It was Vivekananda’s daughter who moved the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking a CBI investigation, while questioning Jagan’s failure to pursue it. The CBI took over the case in July 2020. 

And now, according to its affidavit filed nearly three years later, the CBI believes that Avinash and his father Bhaskar conspired to eliminate Vivekananda due to a long-running political rivalry, aggravated by recent conflicts over an MLC seat (in 2017) and an MP seat (in 2019). The father-son duo allegedly hatched the plot with their aide D Siva Shankar Reddy. A few others who had worked closely with Vivekananda for years — including Yerra Gangi Reddy, Sunil Yadav, and Dastagir — were allegedly roped in to be part of their plan.

The CBI also detailed Avinash’s alleged attempts to conceal the murder. The affidavit says that Avinash was the one who initially cooked up the heart attack story, according to the CBI. Even as Vivekananda lay dead in a pool of blood with visible external injuries, Avinash allegedly called the Pulivendula Circle Inspector and informed that he had died of a heart attack. He allegedly tried to explain away the blood stains by claiming his uncle had vomited blood. The affidavit also alleged that the body was hastily moved from the crime scene with the involvement of the local police, and that there was an attempt to destroy crucial evidence. According to the CBI, an amount of Rs 40 crore was offered to the accomplices for Vivekananda's murder. 

Avinash has maintained that the CBI’s allegations are questionably similar to the TDP’s claims. He has appeared before the CBI four times as part of the investigation so far, the last time being on March 13. The Telangana High Court has rejected his plea seeking exemption from appearing before the CBI. 

The family feud

The CBI believes that Jagan’s decision to choose Vivekananda as the party’s MLC candidate from Pulivendula in 2017, despite Avinash rooting for his aide Siva Shankar’s candidacy, ignited friction within the family. The CBI said in its affidavit:

“Investigation as regards to the motive behind the murder of YS Vivekananda Reddy, it is revealed that in 2013, Vivekananda left Congress party and joined YSRCP. However, in the 2014 general elections, he could not get an MLA or MP ticket from YSRCP.” However, the CBI said he worked very actively for the party and had he won the MLC election in 2017, he would’ve been a strong contender for the Kadapa MP ticket in 2019.  

Losing the 2017 MLC election shocked Vivekananda, the affidavit said, as YSRCP had won in all other MLC divisions. Confident of a victory in his home ground, Vivekananda had been more active in the affairs of other divisions, the CBI stated. Avinash, his father Bhaskar, and aide Siva Shankar developed a grudge over losing the MLC ticket to Vivekananda, and worked to ensure his defeat by sabotaging his prospects, the affidavit said.    

According to the CBI, about two years later, when it was time to pick candidates for the 2019 general elections, Vivekananda advised Jagan to pick either his mother Vijayamma or sister Sharmila for the Kadapa seat. However, Jagan gave the ticket to Avinash. Jagan’s mother and sister, who were among the YSRCP’s lead campaigners before the 2019 Assembly election, have since distanced themselves from the party. Sharmila later founded the YSR Telangana Party with her mother’s support.  

However, according to a member of the YS family who chose to remain anonymous, the feud between the Avinash and Vivekananda factions did not surface overnight. “YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s father YS Raja Reddy and Avinash’s grandfather YS Chinna Konda Reddy were stepbrothers. Through the 1970s and ‘80s, Chinna Konda Reddy resented Raja Reddy, as he felt his stepbrother was getting credit for the family’s political rise. Raja Reddy even bailed out his stepbrother in times of financial trouble. But the animosity remained. The two sides of the family did not trust each other,” the relative said.

For more than six decades, the YS family has dominated the Pulivendula Assembly constituency and enjoyed huge influence in the entire Kadapa district. Such was the power Raja Reddy held in the faction-ridden Pulivendula of the 1970s and ‘80s that even today, Opposition parties say that Jagan is implementing the ‘Raja Reddy constitution’ and not the Constitution of India, alluding to the family’s alleged authoritarian rule.  

The imminent closure

Suneetha, who is a leading infectious diseases specialist in a top hospital in Hyderabad, has always maintained that her father’s murder was politically motivated. Family members TNM spoke to said that her fight hinges on an unwavering hope for justice. 

On Vivekananda’s death anniversary this year, #JusticeforYSViveka was trending on social media. After paying tributes at his tomb in Pulivendula, Suneetha said, “My fight is not for revenge, but to bring out the truth." 

On March 29, the Supreme Court took note of the inordinate delay in the probe. The court replaced Ram Singh, who was heading the CBI team investigating the murder, with Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) KR Chowrasia. The court also directed the CBI to complete the murder investigation by April 30, giving fresh hope to Suneetha and her family. 

The political repercussions

Based on the revelations in the CBI’s affidavit, TDP has now alleged that CM Jagan has been “pleading” for his cousin Avinash’s exoneration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and others. 

Addressing a public meeting recently, TDP MP Kinjarapu Ram Mohan Naidu said, “There was a time when it was a matter of pride for the CM to visit the national capital, to fight for the state’s rights. But Jagan isn’t in Delhi to ask for special category status or a railway zone for Andhra… He has gone to fall at the feet of central leaders to ensure that his family is not named in his uncle’s murder case.”  

Responding to these allegations, YSRCP general secretary and public affairs advisor to the Jagan government Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy claimed that the CBI probe was influenced by ‘biased’ media reports. “Vivekananda Reddy participated in the election campaign for Avinash the day before he was murdered. Avinash was called for a CBI inquiry based on hyped news stories against him. Fresh attempts are being made to project a conspiracy angle, only to drag the YS family into this case. This is all a part of dirty politics being played by Chandrababu Naidu,” said Sajjala. 

So far, the CBI has examined nearly 250 witnesses in the case. With the investigating agency now being asked to complete the probe by April 30, the conclusions and the subsequent verdict in the case can have a significant impact on the upcoming Andhra Assembly elections, scheduled to be held less than a year from now. 

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