Why is Chandrababu cracking down on Sakshi TV?
Why the fight
- TDP govt holds sway on most media channels in Andhra
- But Jaganmohan Reddy\'s Sakshi group is an exception
More in the story
- Can Naidu really control Sakshi?
- The genesis of the problem
The political vendetta between the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress isn't unusual. But why now?
Is Chandrababu Naidu aping his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao, who once without soiling his own hands, dumbed down the bitterest criticism from two TV channels - TV9 and ABN Andhra Jyothy - by surreptitiously having their telecast blocked by arm-twisting cable operators?
The promoters of those channels, however, were not directly linked to politics despite having never hidden a soft-corner for Telugu Desam Party and Chandrababu Naidu. Also, they weren't mired in legal wrangles.
In contrast, Sakshi is promoted by Reddy, currently the Leader of Opposition in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly, and an arch rival of Naidu.
The animosity between the TDP and YSR Congress is well known. Sakshi Media has been founded on an anti-TDP premise. The infamous CBI cases of disproportionate assets against Jagan had Sakshi Media at their core.
Chandrababu Naidu has not been able to stomach the scorn being poured by Sakshi media every day. It published a series of articles against the proposed new capital, Amaravathi, levelling large-scale corruption charges against Naidu, his son Lokesh, and several TDP leaders. The sories were aired on the group's TV channel.
Enraged by this, TDP leaders complained with the police against Sakshi. Naidu was terribly upset with the way the charges were made against Lokesh. The CM is known for claiming that nobody can question his integrity.
In fact, the TDP is pulling all stops to have Jagan's prosecution resumed in 11 CBI cases so that he can be imprisoned and barred from contesting elections. That will ensure an unhindered political continuance for TDP and, maybe open up an opportunity for Lokesh.
While this is one possibility, the TDP government did not want to take chances. Therefore, it enacted the Andhra Pradesh Special Courts Act, 2015, paving the way for the recovery of ill-gotten assets by public servants.
The government proposes to invoke the law and take over the assets of Reddy that were attached by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The TDP is known for build-ups before actual strikes. The party creates a conducive atmosphere by drumming up public opinion.
Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said the government was contemplating writing to the Centre to hand over the properties of Reddy attached by the ED for the use of public good. It valued the assets at Rs 43,000 crore.
TDP is part of the NDA government led by the BJP at the Centre.
K Ramachandra Murthy, editorial director of Sakshi Media, said:
"The Government is dying to take over, but they cannot. It is not in their jurisdiction," said
"The Sakshi case is already with the ED and the CBI court. They cannot touch the media. If they dare to, we will launch a nationwide agitation. It will be a stupid thing to do on the part of the government to take over Sakshi media," Murthy said.
"The whole part of Sakshi is under attachment by ED. The High Court allowed the organisation to function and continue financial transactions," he pointed out.
"Ramakrishnudu wants to demoralise the cadre of YSR Congress. They want to kill the Opposition. People are with YSR Congress, anyway. There is a huge anti-incumbency building up in the state and Naidu failed to deliver on any of his poll promises."
"These are diversionary tactics. They did this kind of a campaign against Lakshmi Parvathi in 1996 and succeeded. But they won't this time."
The trigger for the controversy is the hunger strike by former minister Mudragada Padmanabham three months ago at Kirlampudi in East Godavari.
The TDP suspected Reddy to be behind the agitation that embarrassed the government to fulfill its promises to the largest community - Kapus - in the State. A train was set afire by agitators.
After investigation, the police filed cases against a few agitators and they were arrested and remanded to judicial custody. Angered by this, Padmanabham launched yet another hunger strike demanding their release.
This led to tension in the district. The government did not want the media to air the scenes of arrests and the Kapu reservation agitation. With a view to preventing the telecast of the agitation, the cable operators were "on the sly" instructed to block Sakshi TV.
However, Deputy Chief Minister & Home Minister N Chinna Rajappa and some TDP legislators went about town asserting that the government would not allow the airing of the channel until Padmanabham's hunger strike ended.
The war of words between the TDP and YSRC leaders is not uncommon. But this time it is not part of the AP's 'Game of Thrones'. It is about physical assets and political liabilities.
Edited by Joyjeet Das