At Chandrababu Naidu’s protest in Delhi, surprise appearance by a BJP ally

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu’s 12-hour protest saw more than 20 political leaders make an appearance at the national capital’s Andhra Bhavan during the day. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had come in early in the day before heading to Lucknow for a road show, rival Aam Aadmi Party’s Arvind Kejriwal came much later in the day.

Around sunset when the Andhra chief minister wrapped up the protest, he told reporters that leaders from 23 political parties had showed up to extend support to Andhra’s Telugu Desam Party government, which is demanding special status for the state.

BJP ally Shiv Sena was one of them. Its leader Sanjay Raut made a surprise appearance at the event where one speaker after another, treated the BJP-led national coalition as a punching bag.

“We are with N Chandrababu Naidu for the demand he is pressing for his state. Every state has its own role to play and every state has its own demands. We may have ideological differences but if the chief minister of a state is sitting on ‘dharna’ for his state, we must support the cause,” said Raut, according to news agency ANI.

“My leader Uddhav Thackeray told me to go and support N Chandrababu Naidu. We will think about politics later on,” he added.

Naidu said that Shiv Sena is not happy with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and thanked Shiv Sena for its support.

“Uddhav Thackeray is the best friend of mine. Even Bal Thackeray was very affectionate towards me. I really appreciate Shiv Sena chief for extending his cooperation,” said Naidu.

Disgruntled BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha and former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha also attended Naidu’s protest.

Naidu, who ended his fast at 8.20 pm, accepting a glass of juice from JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, also announced that a memorandum would be presented to the President tomorrow morning.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and TMC leader Derek O’ Brien were among other opposition leaders who visited Andhra Bhavan to express their solidarity with Naidu, the supremo of Telugu Desam (TDP).

The leaders in their brief speeches mounted a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a range of issues, notably the Rafale deal, with Kejriwal going to the extent of accusing him of behaving like “PM of Pakistan” and not of India in the way he treats state governments led by opposition parties.

Reacting to Kejriwal’s barb, BJP’s national secretary and co-incharge for Andhra Pradesh Sunil Deodhar said the leaders of the ‘grand-alliance’ are competing with each other on who can be more abusive towards Modi, according to news agency PTI.

Naidu, who is trying to unite opposition parties, has over the last three months, has held a number of meetings with opposition party leaders on forming an anti-BJP front.

The TDP pulled out of the NDA government in March last year over its refusal to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 07:30 IST

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