Home india-news Andhra Pradesh: Tussle between media houses take political colour | Latest News India

Andhra Pradesh: Tussle between media houses take political colour | Latest News India

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Andhra Pradesh: Tussle between media houses take political colour | Latest News India

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Hyderabad

Tussle between media houses take political colour in Andhra Pradesh. (AP)
Tussle between media houses take political colour in Andhra Pradesh. (AP)

The ongoing tussle between two media houses in Andhra Pradesh – Eenadu promoted by media baron Ch Ramoji Rao and Sakshi, promoted by chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is snowballing into a political battle ahead of the assembly elections scheduled early next year.

Both the media houses have taken a clear political stand – Eenadu has been targeting the Jagan Mohan Reddy government and highlighting the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), while Sakshi has been promoting the Jagan Mohan Reddy government and attacking the TDP.

The chief minister has been openly attacking Eenadu, describing it as part of “Dushta Chatushtayam” (Gang of four wicked elements), the other three being Naidu and two other media houses which are supporting the TDP.

“This gang of four has been trying to destabilise my government to help Chandrababu Naidu to return to power. We are fighting not just with Naidu, but also with the pro-TDP media houses who are spitting venom against my government,” Jagan said at a recent public meeting in Srikakulam district last week.

The confrontation reached a new high when the Jagan government began attacking the financial roots of Ramoji Rao by ordering a probe into the alleged irregularities in the Margadarsi Chit Funds Private Limited (MCFPL), owned by him. While Ramoji Rao is the chairman of the company, his daughter-in-law Sailaja Kiran is its managing director.

It began with a series of inspections and searches by the Andhra Pradesh Stamps and Registration Department, which is also a regulating authority of the chit fund business, on branches of Margadarsi in October and November last year.

The inspection teams claimed to have found several irregularities in the chit fund business being run by Margadarsi, including non-payment of monthly subscriptions and instalments to the subscribers and transferring the subscription amount to the Corporate Office account from where it was allegedly invested in mutual funds etc.

In March, the case was entrusted to the Crime Investigation Department (CID), which registered multiple first information reports (FIRs) across the state against Margadarsi and launched an investigation. The CID named Ramoji Rao as accused No. 1 (A-1) and Sailaja as A-2, besides booked cases against branch managers of the company in various districts including Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Eluru, Vijayawada, Guntur, Palnadu, Kurnool, and Ananthapuramu.

The FIRs were registered under Sections 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating), 477(A), read with Section 34 (falsification of accounts) of the Indian Penal Code, besides Section 5 of the Andhra Pradesh Protection of Depositors in Financial Establishments Act, 1999, and Sections 76 and 79 of the Chit Funds Act,1982.

On April 3, a CID team led by superintendent of police Amit Bardar questioned Ramoji Rao at his residence for eight hours on the alleged irregularities. Four days later, the CID also questioned Sailaja Kiran, after serving them notices under Section 160 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

The Jagan government also appointed a special auditor exclusively to look into the accounts of Margadarsi and unearth the irregularities. The company moved the high court and obtained a stay order on the same on Monday.

On April 12, the CID authorities also asked central probe agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Income Tax (I-T) department and Serious Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) authorities to probe the alleged irregularities in the Margadarsi.

“The company violated the chit fund laws and bloated the cash deposit records. The company raised deposits without permission of the RBI, and diverted the amount collected from the depositors to speculate in the risky stock market,” CID additional director general N Sanjay said.

The ADG also said the chit fund company had not been filing its balance sheets under the Chit Fund Act but under the Companies Act.

Margadarsi Chit Funds refuted the allegations. In a statement to the media, a company spokesperson said the entire exercise is part of a large scale conspiracy to attack the financial roots of the company. The CID authorities are trying to create some sort of fear psychosis among the subscribers of the chit fund company,” he said.

He said the company would wage a legal battle against the deliberate attempt by the Andhra government to target the company.

On the other hand, Eenadu has also been attacking the Jagan government, alleging that the chief minister was promoting Sakshi Telugu daily, owned by his family. Ramoji Rao moved the Supreme Court in March challenging a government order which sanctioned 200 per month from the state funds as additional financial support for each village volunteer and ward volunteer to enable them to purchase one widely circulated Telugu newspaper.

The Eenadu group alleged that the price ceiling was fixed in a manner to promote “Sakshi,” as the monthly subscription charges of Eenadu was 207.50, while that of Sakshi was only 176.50. “This would help Sakshi increase its circulation to overtake Eenadu,” Ramoji Rao challenged. The case is pending disposal in the Supreme Court.

Former Congress MP Vundavalli Arun Kumar, who has been waging a legal battle against Margadarsi since 2006, compared Ramoji Rao with fugitive economic offender Vijay Mallya.

“Like Mallaya, Ramoji Rao, too, committed a financial fraud by collecting thousands of crores from common people and diverted it. He may be a media baron, but he cannot be above the law,” he said.

Political analyst Ramu Survajjula said the battle between Jagan and Ramoji Rao would certainly add to the political heat in the run up to elections. “The Jagan government is openly going all out against Ramoji Rao, while Eenadu is not hiding its intentions of going after the government to damage its image by carrying a series of banner stories to defame the government,” he said.

“The chief minister’s provocative open castigation of Eenadu and the unprofessional editorial commentary by Eenadu are causing a great damage to the key institutions in our democracy,” Suravajjula said.



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