The bloody 2019 murder for which CBI has arrested Andhra CM Jaganmohan Reddy’s uncle

Bhaskar is a paternal cousin of Jaganmohan’s father, the late Andhra Pradesh CM YS Rajasekhara Reddy or YSR, who was a towering figure in the state’s politics. YSR’s younger brother Vivekananda, 68, was killed in 2019. His body with seven stab wounds was found at his residence in Pulivendula in the Kadapa district.

Bhaskar and his son Avinash Reddy, the current Kadapa MP from the Chief Minister’s party (the YSR Congress Party or the YSRCP), are accused in the case, allegedly because of political rivalry with Vivekananda.

What was the 2019 Vivekananda Reddy murder case?

Vivekananda Reddy was found dead at his home on the morning of March 15, 2019, with multiple injuries. Police said an axe may have been used to attack him.

Vivekananda was elected MLA twice from Pulivendula, in 1989 and 1994. He was also elected to Lok Sabha twice from Kadapa, and to the Legislative Council of the undivided AP in 2004.

Vivekananda lost the 2011 by-election for the Pulivendula Assembly constituency that he contested against his sister-in-law Vijaya Lakshmi, the wife of YSR and mother of Jaganmohan Reddy. This was at the time of a huge sympathy wave after YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009. Jaganmohan had just split from the Congress and formed his own party, the YSRCP. Vivekananda too joined the YSRCP later.

Vivekananda failed in an attempt to enter the AP House in 2017. It was alleged that Bhaskar and his son Avinash Reddy played a role in ensuring his defeat.

At the time of Vivekananda’s death in 2019, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N Chandrababu Naidu was the Chief Minister. He ordered the constitution of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the killing, while the YSRCP demanded a CBI probe. Both political parties accused each other of being involved in the murder.

How did the investigation proceed?

The police registered a case under Section 302 IPC (murder) and questioned several people.

The case was taken away from the SIT of the state crime investigation department, and handed over to the CBI in July 2020, following an order passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in March that year. The central agency filed a charge sheet on October 26, 2021, and followed it up with a supplementary charge sheet on January 31, 2022.

In November 2022, the Supreme Court ordered the trial shifted to the CBI Special Court in Hyderabad, Telangana, after finding substance in contentions that a fair trial may not be possible in Andhra Pradesh. This was after Vivekananda’s daughter Suneetha Narreddy and her mother petitioned the court.

The CBI speeded up the probe after the Supreme Court formed a new SIT last week and directed it to complete the investigation by April 30.

Who are the accused in the case?

The CBI has named 250 persons as witnesses in the case and attached their statements. A lot of the evidence here comes from Vivekananda’s driver R Dastagir, who has turned approver and has given a confession statement under Section 164 before the Junior Civil Judge at Proddatur in Kadapa.

The CBI has alleged that Bhaskar and his son Avinash conspired to kill Vivekananda because of apprehension over his political dominance in Kadapa. Even though they had ensured the defeat of Vivekananda in the MLC elections of 2017, they were worried as Vivekananda had started consolidating his political power in the region.

They allegedly hired staff who worked for Vivekananda — including Vivekananda’s close aide Y Gangi Reddy, Dastagir, and Sunil Yadav — to report his movements to Avinash. Avinash Reddy has been questioned by the CBI three times in connection with the case. He has consistently maintained that he is innocent.

Avinash had reached Vivekananda’s house after a domestic help found him in a pool of blood and raised an alarm. According to the CBI, Avinash told police that Vivekananda had died after a heart attack, and attempted to hide his injuries.

Bhaskar is the fifth person to be arrested in the case. He will be produced before the local CBI court, officials said. He has been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 120B (conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 201 (tampering and destroying evidence).

In 2019, Kadapa Police arrested Gangi Reddy, Vivekananda’s personal secretary Krishna Reddy, and Prakash Reddy, who is the son of Vivekananda’s house help Lakshmi, for allegedly destroying evidence and misleading the police. On Friday, the CBI arrested Avinash’s aide Uday Reddy.