Several Opposition party leaders, including Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah, met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu at the venue of his day-long fast in New Delhi on Monday. The “Dharma Porata Deeksha”, or protest for justice, started at the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan on Monday morning and went on till around 8.30 pm. He ended the fast with water offered by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda.
Naidu was demanding the special category status for his state. Manmohan Singh, who was the prime minister when Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated in 2014, said the Centre should fulfil the promises made to the state without any further delay, PTI reported. “This demand had support of all parties when it was discussed in Parliament. I stand in solidarity with Naidu,” he said.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “stolen from the people from Andhra Pradesh and given that money to Anil Ambani”. This was an apparent reference to his repeated allegations of favouritism for the businessman in the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.
“Mr Narendra Modi, wherever he goes, he goes to Andhra Pradesh, he lies about special status,” Gandhi said. “He goes to the North East, he tells another lie over there. He goes to Maharashtra and he tells another lie over there. He has got absolutely no credibility left.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh, Nationalist Congress Party’s Majeed Memon, Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien and Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav were among those who met Naidu to extend support to him. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will leave for Delhi on Tuesday to attend the protest.
Kejriwal said Modi treats Opposition parties as if he were the prime minister of Pakistan and not India, ANI reported. “We want to tell the prime minister, he is not the PM of BJP, but of the people of this country,” he added.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said it was clearly announced at the time of the bifurcation that the leftover part of Andhra Pradesh will get special category status to make up for its loss. Sharma also said the language used by Narendra Modi against Naidu at a rally in Guntur on Sunday was unbecoming of a prime minister.
“He has dragged the political discourse to such a low level,” Sharma said. “Therefore, we decided to unite against him. Standing together need is the hour.”
Ahmed Patel, another Congress MP, said Modi had betrayed Andhra Pradesh and people should not expect anything from the government.
Naidu’s hunger strike came a day after Modi visited Andhra Pradesh. At a public rally in Guntur on Sunday, Modi claimed that Naidu was only focused on his son’s rise and not the development of the state.
Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party had quit the National Democratic Alliance, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, in March 2018 over the Centre’s refusal to grant Andhra Pradesh special category status.
Protests had been organised in several parts of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday against Modi’s visit to Guntur. Workers of the ruling Telugu Desam Party, the Congress, Left parties, student groups and organisations that favour special category status for Andhra Pradesh organised demonstrations in 13 districts.