From Congress to TDP via YSRCP and excise scam: Magunta duo’s political journey in Andhra

Junior Magunta, an accused-turned-approver in the alleged Delhi liquor scam, is likely to make his political debut as the NDA's Lok Sabha candidate in Ongole.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Mar 19, 2024 | 1:00 PMUpdatedMar 19, 2024 | 1:00 PM

TDP chief Naidu, MP Magunta and his son Raghava. (Supplied)

Ongole MP and liquor baron Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, along with his son Magunta Raghava Reddy, both accused-turned-approvers in the Delhi excise policy scam, joined the TDP on 16 March, days after the regional party stuck a pre-poll deal with the JSP-BJP alliance.

Incidentally, the former YSRCP MP and his son joined the TDP a day after BRS MLC and the daughter of K Chandrashekar Rao, K Kavitha, was arrested from her Banjara Hills residence in Hyderabad.

Sources said Raghava Reddy would be the likely candidate of the TDP-JSP-BJP combine from Ongole in the Lok Sabha polls.

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The controversy

Sreenivasulu Reddy made his political debut in 1998, three years after his brother Magunta Subbarama Reddy, the Congress MP from Ongole, was killed by Maoists. He was reportedly killed as part of the ultra’s move to redistribute wealth.

Carrying on his brother’s legacy, Sreenivasulu Reddy successfully contested to Parliament from Ongole as a Congress candidate, a feat he repeated two more times for the grand old party.

In 2014, he shifted allegiance to the TDP and contested the elections but lost to the YSRCP. However, in 2019, he joined the YSRCP and became an MP for the fourth time.

Sreenivasulu and Raghava Reddy grabbed headlines after the multi-crore Delhi excise policy scam came to light. They were allegedly part of the so-called “South Group” that reportedly paid ₹100 crore to AAP leaders through middlemen, in return for favours.

The Telugu states, too, felt the tremors of the CBI search carried out at Delhi’s former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s residence in connection with the scam. It was alleged that the Magunta family was running one of the liquor cartels in Delhi.

The South Group allegedly comprised Srinivasulu and Raghava Reddy, and BRS MLC K Kavitha, who were represented by businessman Arun Ramachandra Pillai, along with Hyderabad-based businessman Abhishek Boinpally, chartered accountant Butchibabu Gorantla, and director of a prominent pharmaceutical company, P Sarath Chandra Reddy.

Except for Kavitha, all others in the South Group turned approvers.

The rules of the Delhi excise policy 2021-22 stated that no company shall be allotted more than two zones, but Srinivasulu’s Balaji Group of companies was allegedly allotted licences for three zones.

Also Read: From ration to hospital the Tribals in Andhra have to either walk or carry a ‘Doli’ for miles

Accused turns approver

In connection with the scam, the Enforcement Directorate raided 40 different places in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh on 16 September 2022.

Simultaneous searches were also conducted at the Delhi and Nellore residences of Srinivasulu.

Surprisingly, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s wife, YS Bharathi Reddy, appeared as an accused in the case. It was reported that Srinivasulu named Bharathi in the scam at a news conference he had held in Delhi on 19 September 2022.

However, the next day, Srinivasulu denied making any statement against Bharathi.

The CBI questioned Raghava Reddy on 17 October 2022, a month after the searches. On 11 November, the ED arrested Aurobindo Pharma scion P Sarath Chandra Reddy, the brother of P Rohit Reddy, son-in-law of YSRCP Rajya Sabha MP Vijaya Sai Reddy.

The ED arrested Raghava Reddy on 11 February 2023 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A month after his son’s arrest, Srinivasulu received an ED notice, asking him to appear before it on 18 March. However, he cited the ill-health of a family member to avoid appearing before the ED on the said date. He presented himself before the agency on 24 March.

On 1 June, a Delhi court allowed Sarath Chandra Reddy to turn approver. “I am ready to make a true disclosure voluntarily about the case and want to be an approver,” he submitted in his application seeking pardon.

Six days later, a 15-day interim bail granted by the Delhi High Court was challenged by the ED in the Supreme Court. The court granted Raghava Reddy a five-day interim bail to care for his maternal grandmother, who was under intensive care at a Nellore hospital after suffering a fall.

On 19 July, Raghava Reddy was granted bail for four weeks. On 11 August, Srinivasulu’s regular bail application was unopposed, with the ED saying he was cooperating with the investigation.

The MP turned approver on 9 September. Later, his son submitted a plea to the Delhi court on 3 October, seeking to turn approver.

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Magunta’s journey from YSRCP to NDA

Meanwhile, the MP’s relationship with Jagan strained. His push for making his son the party’s Lok Sabha candidate from Ongole became a talking point within the YSRCP.

The YSRCP supremo did not relent despite his relative and former minister Balineni Srinivas Reddy, hailing from the Ongole district, pitching in for the MP or his son’s nomination.

On his part, Srinivasulu stayed away from YSRCP events attended by Jagan in Ongole.

“There are personal differences between the two leaders and the reasons are best known to them. They haven’t seen each other face-to-face in many years,” sources told South First.

With no positive response from Jagan, the MP waited for the BJP to join the TDP-JSP alliance.

He resigned from the party on 28 February, citing “self-respect” as the reason for leaving. Srinivasulu would likely contest the state Assembly from Giddalur as the TDP’s candidate. The simultaneous Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh are on 13 May.

If declared as candidates, the father-son duo, accused in the alleged Delhi liquor policy scam, would be endorsed by leaders of the TDP-BJP-JSP combine including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

(Edited by Majnu Babu)