Yet another search was conducted by Income Tax officials on the residences and offices of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP CM Ramesh in Hyderabad and other locations on Friday. According to sources, around 60 I-T officials have also landed up at his home in Kadapa.
The businessman-politician was reported to be the promoter of Rithwik Projects Pvt Ltd. Speaking to a local media outlet, Ramesh dubbed the searches a 'witch hunt', pointing out that he had issued a notice, as a member of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC), to the I-T Department last week regarding the series of searches that they had done across the state.
This comes one week after the premises of Nellore-based businessman and politician Beeda Masthan Rao of the TDP were also searched. Masthan is a close aide of party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
According to reports, I-T sleuths from Chennai had conducted searches on BMR Groups, a shrimp farming and exports firm where Beeda Masthan Rao is the chairman.
Three days ago, the Enforcement Directorate had searched former Union Minister and TDP MP Sujana Chowdary’s office at Nagarjuna Hills in Hyderabad's Panjagutta area. According to reports, the searches were carried out by 34 ED officials on Monday night, who seized several documents and rubber stamps. Chowdary had founded the Sujana Group of Industries.
Speculation within the TDP also suggested that these I-T raids were part of ‘Operation Garuda’, a claim reinforced by Naidu in June this year.
The theory of the operation was first put forward by actor Sivaji, who was earlier with the BJP. The Tollywood actor said that each southern state was assigned a code name, with the operation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana dubbed ‘Operation Garuda’, while it was ‘Operation Kumara’ in Karnataka and ‘Operation Ravana’ in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Last year, in a viral video, he alleged that the BJP was launching 'Operation Garuda' with the help of Jagan and Pawan in Andhra Pradesh to finish off the TDP in Andhra Pradesh.
In the video, Sivaji claimed that the new party led by one 'Kalyan ji' and the regional party will join hands and defeat the major local party in 2019, following which the national party will put its plan into action.
Sivaji claimed that the 'new party' chief would be offered the post of a Union Minister, while the head of the regional party would be sent to jail for existing cases that he is fighting in court, following which a Telugu leader from the national party would take charge.