Former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party President N Chandrababu Naidu was on Monday detained at the Tirupati airport while he was on his way to Chittoor to take part in a protest against the alleged high-handedness of the ruling state government, reported The Indian Express.

Visuals of the incident showed the TDP chief squatting on the floor, staging a sit-in protest as police officials tried to pacify him.

“What is this... don’t I have fundamental rights to meet the collector?” Naidu could be heard asking. “What is happening to this country? I worked for 14 years as chief minister. I am the leader of Opposition. What is this tamasha [drama]. Why did you detain me? You didn’t give me permission... I will sit right here.” The police detained Naidu, citing Covid-19 rules and the election code of conduct in force ahead of the Andhra Pradesh urban body elections, according to The News Minute.

The police had denied permission to Chittoor district TDP president Pulivarthi Venakatamani Prasad to organise a protest against the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government. The agitation was planned for Monday from 11 am to 2 pm near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Chittoor.

“Under Covid-19 regulations, huge gatherings are not allowed,” said a police official, while denying request for the protest. “The Model Code of Conduct for the Andhra Pradesh urban local body election is also in effect. This is an agitational programme and not in the nature of an election campaign, and thus not permissible under MCC.”

The TDP had planned to bring in 5,000 party cadres for the protest but the police cited traffic snarls on national and state highways to deny them permission. “Any violation of this order will be strictly dealt with in accordance with the law,” police had warned.

The Tirupati and Chittoor police also placed important TDP leaders of the districts under house arrest ahead of Naidu’s visit, according to PTI.

TDP politburo member Yanamala Ramakrishnudu condemned the police action and said that the incident exposed Reddy’s “draconian” rule. “Detention of the Opposition leader is nothing but trampling the civil liberties,” he said. “Is there a rule of law in AP [Andra Pradesh]?”

TDP state president Kinjarapu Atchannaidu demanded the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party leaders to explain why the opposition has no right to hold tours and meetings in the state. He also condemned the house arrests of Chittoor party leaders.

“YSRCP leaders have no right to create obstacles for the visits of such a senior leader,” Atchannaidu said. “The common people were having doubts now whether they were brought under a jungleraj after the YSRCP came to power.”