The protest is meant to highlight the ‘injustice’ done to Andhra Pradesh by the Centre.

 

Hyderabad: Weeks ahead of the election notification for the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu will sit in a day-long protest fast in Delhi on Monday. The entire Andhra Pradesh Cabinet and all the MPs and MLAs of the ruling party will join him in the protest demonstration, meant to highlight the injustice to Andhra by the Centre.

The venue of the protest is still to be decided as the Delhi Police is yet to give permission for it at the Jantar Mantar as sought by the TDP. If the police decline permission there, the fast venue will be changed to the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan in Ashoka Road. Three special trains will leave from Vijayawada to Delhi to carry the TDP leaders and cadre on 8, 9 and 10 February.

Naidu has drawn flak from the Opposition YSR Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for protesting in Delhi as a CM of Andhra Pradesh and for “misusing” the official machinery for the purpose. As the CM has also invited the leaders of unions of government employees to Delhi, the administration would come to a standstill on a working day, Monday, these parties said.

YSR Congress senior leader Botsa Satyanarayana said that the state government would be spending around Rs 10 crore on Naidu’s Delhi protest at a time when Andhra Pradesh was steeped in debt burden of around Rs 2.5 lakh crore. “The government has paid Rs 1.33 crore to the railways for three special trains to take people to Delhi, besides shelling out huge sums on special flights and publicity,” he said.

Naidu’s protest fast in the national capital will also see the presence of 23 other Opposition parties that have come together since recently to fight against the BJP in the coming elections. Naidu had spoken to TMC chief and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, among others, to join his day-long fast.

The participation of Congress president Rahul Gandhi is doubtful as he is likely to depute some of his senior leaders to the fast. Rahul Gandhi is meticulously avoiding the company of other Opposition leaders like Mamata Banerjee and BSP leader Mayawati for sometime, as they, too, are not ready to share the dais with him. “But, our CM is in touch with Rahul Gandhi,” a TDP former MP said.

Naidu, along with other Opposition leaders, will call on President Ramnath Kovind on 12 February to complain against the unfair treatment meted out to Andhra Pradesh at the hands of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in the last four years, sources close to the CM told this newspaper. A detailed 20-page memorandum is being prepared by the CM office for the purpose.

Based on the harmony generated at the Opposition leaders’ meeting on 11 and 12 February, Naidu is expected to organise another conclave of these parties in Amaravati in the second week of March by when the Election Commission would announce the poll schedule. Naidu wants to launch his poll campaign from this rally.

The protest fast in Delhi seems to be an outcome of political compulsions for Naidu who faces stiff challenge from Jagan and BJP which banks on the image of PM Modi. For the last few months, Naidu has been harping on the Andhra sentiment by attacking the BJP government at the Centre for denying “special status” to AP.

As part of this strategy, Naidu has decided not to receive Prime Minister Modi when he comes to Guntur on Sunday to attend a BJP election meeting in the city. This is the first time the PM would be coming to Andhra Pradesh after TDP parted ways with the BJP last March. This may be the first instance Naidu as CM would not be receiving the PM at the airport.

Already, the political atmosphere is charged with Naidu calling people to boycott the PM’s visit to Andhra on Sunday. In a teleconference with TDP leaders on Thursday, the CM said that the PM had no moral right to visit AP as his BJP government had done immense injustice to the state. “With what face he (Modi) comes here? Why should we welcome him?” asked Naidu.

Already, the TDP leadership gave a similar call to boycott BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts in the North-Coastal Andhra on 4 February. There were clashes between TDP and BJP workers at several places as the former tried to shown black flags to the BJP president. BJP leaders alleged that the police remained spectators to the hooliganism by TDP cadres.

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