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Sakshi, the second largest Telugu newspaper in terms of circulation, is a fierce critic of TDP and the state government and has recently featured a series of stories on an alleged land scam in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh’s new capital coming up between Vijayawada and Guntur. Photo: Mint
Sakshi, the second largest Telugu newspaper in terms of circulation, is a fierce critic of TDP and the state government and has recently featured a series of stories on an alleged land scam in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh’s new capital coming up between Vijayawada and Guntur. Photo: Mint

Andhra govt plans to take over Jagan Reddy‘s Sakshi media group

State govt plans to enforce Andhra Pradesh Special Courts Act, 2015, to take management control of Sakshi media group

Hyderabad: The Andhra Pradesh government is planning to take over the management of Sakshi newspaper and Sakshi television channel run by opposition leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy in what could escalate into a major confrontation in the southern state and spark concerns about media independence.

Jagan Reddy heads YSR Congress Party, opposed to Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. TDP, headed by N. Chandrababu Naidu, has the mandate to rule the state till 2019. Jagati Publications Ltd and Indira Television Ltd, promoted by Jagan Reddy, run a regional language newspaper Sakshi and a Telugu news channel by the same name in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Sakshi, the second largest Telugu newspaper in terms of circulation, is a fierce critic of TDP and the state government and has recently featured a series of stories on an alleged land scam in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh’s new capital coming up between Vijayawada and Guntur.

The state government plans to enforce a recently passed legislation, Andhra Pradesh Special Courts Act 2015, to take management control of Sakshi media group, Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, the state’s finance minister said in a phone interview.

The Act, which was framed to recover ill-gotten assets of public servants, secured the Presidential nod last month. It is on the lines of Special Courts Act enacted by Odisha and Bihar to attach properties of government servants involved in disproportionate cases.

“Any property acquired by corruption can be taken over by the government under the Act," Ramakrishnudu said on Wednesday.

Reddy is being investigated by law enforcement agencies such as Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) for allegedly amassing wealth through quid pro quo investments into his companies when his father Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy was the chief minister of the state during 2004-09. Several of Jagan Reddy’s assets, including those of Sakshi, have been attached by investigating agencies during the course of the trial.

Ramakrishnudu said Jagan Reddy’s media empire was born out of money looted from the state and therefore belongs to the government. However, since assets of the media group are attached by the ED, the government will not take over the company but will install its management.

“Since the properties are under ED attachment, the management control has to come to the government," Ramakrishnudu said. The government is finalizing its strategy and will quickly move to take control: “As soon as we can, we will go for it."

A senior Sakshi executive alleged political vendetta but added that the media firm was not overly worried.

“They are talking only for political reasons," K. Ramachandra Murthy, editorial director of Sakshi media group said over phone. “We are not unduly concerned about it (taking over)."

However, he added that the media firm would organize journalists and protest at the national level. “There will be a big movement," warned Murthy. “It will be stupid on the part of the government (to take over)."

Ramakrishnudu said Sakshi’s legal moves could prove futile as the Act has been upheld by the Supreme Court.

He cited the example of fraud-hit Satyam Computer Services Ltd, which was briefly taken over by a government-controlled board before being auctioned to Tech Mahindra Ltd in 2009. “If they can do it, why can’t we do it," the minister questioned.

He explained that the Act was not specifically targeted at the party’s rival Jagan Reddy but was intended to bring public corruption under check in the state.

The government’s takeover move would also fulfil a poll promise by the TDP. The party’s manifesto stated that the government will take over properties acquired by Jagan Reddy and his family if it comes to power. “That’s why we are keeping our promise," said Ramakrishnudu.

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