Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and several leaders of his Telugu Desam Party (TDP) have been put under house arrest to prevent them from participating in a massive protest against the government run by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. Large gatherings are banned by the police in Palnadu region, seen to be worst affected by violence fuelled by political rivalries.
The TDP had planned a protest against alleged intimidation by the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP). Mr Naidu’s party alleged eight TDP workers have been killed and several face threats from Mr Reddy’s party that completed 100 days in power last week.
“It’s a dark day for democracy,” said Mr Naidu, who will sit on a fast till 8 pm today. Some of the TDP leaders who are under house arrest are Devineni Avinash, Kesineni Nani and Bhooma Akhilapriya.
In turn, the ruling party has also planned a counter-march today in protest against alleged violence unleashed by the previous government led by Mr Naidu. The YSRCP has asked people in Atmakur district and Palnadu region, seen to be worst affected by violence, to come forward and share their complaints. The YSRCP alleged its leaders, workers and supporters were driven out from their villages and false cases were filed against them.
Both the former chief minister and his ruling rival had given a call for a march today to Atmakur, 240 km from Amaravati.
Mr Naidu’s son Nara Lokesh was stopped from participating in protests near his home in Undavalli. He argued with the police that there was no ban on gathering of large groups in Vijayawada and surrounding areas, and they should not stop him from protesting. “It is my fundamental right to protest,” Mr Lokesh said.
Over the past three months since the YSRCP came to power, the TDP alleges its activists have been at the receiving end of attacks by the ruling party leaders and cadre. According to the TDP, this has resulted in deaths of eight of its party workers, most of them in the violence-prone Palnadu region of Guntur district. Some 500 party activists have been attacked as well, says the TDP.
Mr Naidu’s main target is former Speaker Kodela Sivaprasad Rao, an influential leader of Mr Reddy’s party from the region.
The YSRCP has denied the allegations of fuelling violence and accused Mr Naidu of making an issue by building a false narrative.
With a massive mandate, Mr Reddy’s party decimated the TDP by winning 151 of 175 assembly and 22 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh in the national and state elections held in April and May. Mr Reddy, 46, is the son of YS Rajashekhara Reddy, one of the state’s most popular Chief Ministers who died in a chopper crash in 2009.
Mr Naidu tried to put up a brave face after his party’s crushing defeat in the elections. “Do not get demoralised by what happened. Instead, follow in the footsteps of NT Rama Rao, who never lost his self-confidence even in times of electoral loss,” he said at an event in Guntur in May.
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