The Andhra Pradesh Police on Thursday took former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu into preventive custody at the Visakhapatnam airport, citing his “safety and security”, PTI reported. The Telugu Desam Party chief was escorted back to the VIP lounge of the airport after members of the ruling YSR Congress Party tried to block the passage of his convoy.

He was served a notice of preventive detention under Section 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Naidu was flown back to back to Hyderabad late on Thursday evening.

Naidu arrived at Visakhapatnam on Thursday afternoon from Vijayawada. He was on his way to Vizianagaram as part of his Praja Chaitanya Yatra in the state. However, when he landed, hundreds of protestors flogged the airport premises and blocked his way. Several YSR Congress Party leaders held up placards and shouted slogans like “Go Back”. Many of them squatted on the road to stop his convoy from moving.

The members of the ruling party were protesting against Naidu who has been opposing the three-capital plan of the Andhra Pradesh government. The situation in the state has been tense since December, when Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy declared his plan to have three capitals – the executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative capital in Amaravati, and judicial capital in Kurnool. Reddy’s government wanted to move the state secretariat and the chief minister’s office to Visakhapatnam and the High Court to Kurnool.

Naidu alleged that he was attacked with slippers and water packets at the Visakhapatnam airport, ANI reported. “I came here to [meet] people whose lands were taken and we were given permission by the Visakhapatnam Police for my visit,” he said. “YSRCP rowdies who had come from Pulivendula [Rayalaseema] and Vijayawada blocked me.”

He added that the police did not try stopping the protestors from attacking him and failed to maintain law and order. “The police are supporting the YSR Congress Party goons,” he said. “I have been in politics for 40 years now and I [have] never witnessed such an incident.”

Tensions soared outside the airport when TDP workers also reached there to counter the YSR Congress Party members. Visakhapatnam City Commissioner of Police Rajiv Kumar, however, said the situation was under control and no clashes were reported.

Kumar added the police had initially given Naidu permission for the rally, but stopped him later for the sake of his safety. “There were too many protestors [outside the airport] and so we decided to take him into preventive custody for his safety.”

The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 – which proposes three state capitals – was passed in the Legislative Assembly in January. On the day the Bill was passed, hundreds of farmers and women in Amaravati region defied prohibitory orders and broke security cordons to reach the state legislature complex to protest.

As many as 17 Telugu Desam Party MLAs were also suspended from the Assembly for disrupting Reddy’s address about the Bill. Several TDP leaders, including Naidu and 17 MLAs were also detained later as they tried to take out a march against the government’s decision. They were taken to the Mangalagiri police station.