As SC is due to take up his case, why Naidu’s challenges remain manifold
Even as Naidu’s lawyers argued in the high court that due procedure was not followed before his arrest, the CID added the TDP chief’s name as accused in multi-crore Andhra Pradesh Fibernet scam
The Supreme Court will on Wednesday hear Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N Chandrababu Naidu’s plea against the high court’s refusal to quash cases filed against him in connection with the alleged ₹3,300 crore Andhra Pradesh Skill Development Corporation (APSSDC) scam when he was the chief minister.
Naidu was arrested in early September months before the simultaneous state assembly and Lok Sabha elections. Both the Opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance and the ruling National Democratic Alliance condemned the arrest, which came amid Naidu’s attempt to revive TDP following its dismal performance in the 2019 polls. The TDP managed to win only 23 of the assembly’s 175 seats and three of the 25 Lok Sabha seats.
Analysts said Naidu’s arrest reeked of revenge with the calculation apparently being to make the TDP rudderless ahead of the polls. Days before his arrest, Naidu insisted chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s rule was about to end, citing the India Today-C Voter survey, which said the TDP could win at least 15 Lok Sabha seats thanks to the anti-incumbency factor.
Even as Naidu’s lawyers argued in the high court that due procedure was not followed before his arrest, the state’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) filed a memo in an Anti-Corruption Bureau court adding the TDP chief’s name as accused in multi-crore Andhra Pradesh Fibernet scam. In a statement, the chief minister’s office said Naidu held the energy, infrastructure, and investment portfolio in the previous government and recommended getting the Fibernet project.
The CID, which is also probing the APSSDC case, earlier opposed Naidu’s bail as the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) expected no immediate relief for Naidu. A YSRCP leader, requesting anonymity, this month told HT that even if he gets bail the CID was ready “to fix him in another case and arrest him”.
On September 11, the CID filed a petition in the ACB court seeking an arrest warrant against Naidu for his alleged involvement in the Amaravati capital city inner ring road scam case. The case was registered in May 2022 on YSRCP lawmaker Alla Ramakrishna Reddy’s complaint. The CID alleged Naidu changed the alignment of the road and was given a bungalow at Undavalli free of cost in return.
Naidu also faces an attempt to murder case in connection with the alleged attacks on some YSRCP leaders, workers, and police during a road show in Annamayya district on August 4.
Political analyst Mallu Rajesh said the government’s strategy appears to keep Naidu in jail in one case or the other as long as possible to demoralise the TDP leaders and cadre ahead of the assembly elections in the state that are due next year. “Even if Naidu comes out after a few weeks, there would be restrictions on his movements, until the cases are disposed of.”
Naidu’s son, Nara Lokesh, has stepped in to address panic within the party even as there is no immediate threat to the TDP. He has sought to lead the party from the front after calling off his foot march. Lokesh dared the CID to arrest him. He has been coordinating with the party leaders for the protests across the state against his father’s arrest. Lokesh also held an interaction with the media in New Delhi and sent a message that he is at the helm of the party in his father’s absence.
TDP leader N Vijay Kumar said Lokesh has gained acceptability among the party leaders. Lokesh chaired the TDP parliamentary party meeting on September 16 and led the protests of the party’s lawmakers at the Parliament on September 18 even as he too faces potential arrest.
CID additional director N Sanjay said they were also investigating Lokesh’s role in the APSSDC case. He said they were also investigating Lokesh’s role in other cases including the Amaravati inner-ring road scam.
Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party has backed TDP and announced an alliance of the two parties for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The sympathy generated for the TDP after Naidu’s arrest and Kalyan’s support are seen as a big boost to the TDP.