Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu began a day-long hunger strike on Friday – his 68th birthday – to protest against the Centre for not granting his state special category status.
Naidu’s Dharma Porata Deeksha, or fight for justice, is being held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in Vijayawada and will go on till 7 pm, The Times of India reported. Several Telugu Desam Party MLAs and members are also fasting with him.
Naidu wrote an open letter asking the people of Andhra Pradesh to support the “satyagraha”.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted in support of Naidu’s demonstration. “We extend support to Andhra Pradesh CM, Chandrababu Naidu @ncbn, for his one-day Hunger Strike for the 5 crore people of AP #CBNFast4Justice.”
Telugu Desam Party MLA Balakrishna criticised the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh, reported The News Minute. “We allied with the BJP as we thought that they would assist us in overcoming problems due to bifurcation,” he said. “Now, all possible ways of negotiation are over. Now, the war will begin.” Balakrishna was speaking at the Dharma Porata Deeksha.
BJP national spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao, however, accused Naidu of making a volte-face on the matter. “My wishes on your birthday,” he tweeted. “In 2016, you said Special Status was nothing great and agreed for a package. Centre is giving more to AP now than ever in history. Your fast is thus a ‘farce’ to only dupe people.”
The Centre and Andhra Pradesh have been at loggerheads over the latter’s demand for special status for months now. Protesting leaders from the ruling Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress had disrupted proceedings in Parliament all through the Budget Session in March-April.
The row had even led to the TDP to walking out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Earlier in April, Telugu Desam Party leaders were detained after they protested outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home.
On Tuesday, a delegation of MPs from the YSR Congress Party met President Ram Nath Kovind at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, urging him to push the Centre to grant special category status to the state. A day before, Opposition parties and labour unions in the state organised a day-long strike that affected public transport.