Rayadurg, Andhra Pradesh: A day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) moved to freeze accounts of his companies, YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy today hit out at the Opposition, saying that the move was an attempt to politically stifle him ahead of the by-elections in the state. He also questioned the CBI's action against his companies.
The investigating agency had, on Tuesday, written to the State Bank of India and the Oriental Bank of Commerce in Hyderabad, directing it to freeze the accounts of three large parts of Jagan's considerable empire - Jagathi Publications, Indira TV and Janani Infrastructure - pending an inquiry by it. It believes that Jagan, one of India's richest politicians with declared assets worth 365 crores, benefited from his father's position as chief minister. YS Rajasekhara Reddy, who died while in office in 2009, allegedly asked companies to invest in Jagan's firms and in return, they were granted licences or other clearances.
"Does the CBI intend to close Sakshi? Why should they freeze accounts?" Jagan asked while speaking to NDTV. "The investors in Sakshi are much bigger companies and they cannot be called my benamis. They can buy me out," said the 39-year-old MP from Kadapa, adding, "I do believe in God and I think Sakshi will go on." He also said that he would move court against the CBI's move.
The YSR Congress chief also slammed the ruling Congress and the Telugu Desam Party, who he alleged had aligned against him. "All of you have joined hands and conspired together just because you are not able to face the political challenge from one person," said Jagan, who is campaigning in Rayadurg in the Anantpur district, ahead of by-elections next month.
Jagan's supporters too have been crying foul over the freezing of accounts, alleging that the move is politically motivated.
"The probe is court-ordered but not court-monitored. It is PMO-monitored with all the attendant pulls and pressures. They are political because they are peeved with Jagan for taking away a large chunk of Congress vote," B Somayajulu, Spokesperson of YSR Congress said.
The move by the CBI on Tuesday came barely 24 hours after summons were issued to Jagan and 12 others - all named as accused in CBI's chargesheet - to appear before a Special CBI Court on May 28. The Andhra Pradesh High Court had, in August last year, directed the CBI to register a case against Jagan and thoroughly inquire into his alleged financial misdeeds. The investigating agency has also booked 73 companies and individuals, alongwith Jagan, on the directions of the High Court.
The agency is probing 26 government orders (GOs) that were issued by six ministers, all from the Congress, and eight bureaucrats from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) during the YSR regime in 2009. The GOs pertain to 26 deals struck between the Andhra Pradesh government and various companies that the 14 people were allegedly responsible for.
"The political catch-22 situation for the Congress is they have to say YSR was honest but want to prove Jaganmohan Reddy was dishonest. They want to say all those who issued those 26 government orders are absolutely clean and correct but the alleged beneficiaries of the GOs have to be proved to be guilty," said K Nageswar, political analyst.
The developments could have significant political ramifications as Andhra Pradesh gears up for byelections to 18 assembly and one Lok Sabha seat in June. Analysts say that Jagan's party, the YSR Congress, appears to have a definite edge that has made, both the Congress and the TDP, nervous.
Hence, the clampdown on the finances on the media houses owned by Jagan is significant. The growing popularity and clout of Jagan, in the last one year, has been attributed, in a large measure, to Sakshi TV and channel. The smooth running of both media houses would now crucially depend on whether Jagan possesses enough liquid cash and whether he can find investors who would be willing to pump in money into his company.