An intense political storm is brewing in Andhra Pradesh following a non-bailable arrest warrant issued to Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and 15 others by the Maharashtra police pertaining to a case registered against them in July 2010 for launching a protest against the construction of Babli project over River Godavari. While the TDP alleges that the BJP is indulging in politics of vendetta, the BJP says that law was taking its own course.
Whatever the TDP may allege or the BJP may say, the issue needs to be looked into in depth from various angles. Let us start with the latest issue. The leader of opposition in Andhra Pradesh Y S Jaganmohan Reddy recently predicted that there would be elections in Andhra Pradesh in January. What was the basis for that?
If we see the political developments which are unfolding it appears that the basis of his comments was perhaps that the Centre would be raking up old cases and push Naidu into a defensive situation so that the real issues pertaining to non-fulfilment of AP State Reorganisation Act are side-lined. He must also have felt that if Naidu is arrested, Presidents’ rule will have to be imposed and elections would be held in January.
This raises the fundamental question, is protest a crime? A protest is an expression of disapproval by means of words or actions with regard to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take many forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations.
Chandrababu Naidu as the then leader of Opposition in the undivided Andhra Pradesh expressing his concern over Maharashtra government going ahead with the construction of Babli project on River Godavari protested saying that the project would affect the water needs of Sriramsagar Project and would turn as many as six districts, now in Telangana State, into desert for want of water. Earlier he had raised this issue many a times in the Assembly.
During chief minister K Rosaiah’s regime, he declared that he would launch an agitation at the Babli site. Following the proposed threat to launch an agitation at the dam site, the Maharashtra police imposed prohibitory orders in the area. Busloads of TDP leaders led by Chandrababu Naidu proceeded to the dam site as planned but were stopped at the border areas by the Maharashtra police on July 19, 2010.
During the protest march trouble broke out between the police and TDP leaders leading to lathi-charge in which many were injured. The TDP leaders were arrested and lodged in a police station at Nanded and later shifted to a technical institute premises. They were subjected to alleged ill-treatment that made an emotionally surcharged Chandrababu Naidu to breakdown. He complained that the Maharashtra police had treated them worse than “terrorists” and “beggars”. They also refused to take bail.
However, following the intervention of then Chief Minister Rosaiah, who had spoken to his counterpart in Maharashtra, the police shifted the arrested TDP leaders from Dhanbad to Aurangabad and put them on a special flight to Hyderabad. For eight long years, the case was put in cold storage. But suddenly 16 persons get non-bailable warrants. On that day there were about 70 party leaders and activists who were arrested.
The BJP is trying to defend itself saying that this was an incident that occurred during Congress regime and it is wrong to blame them. But then it has to answer as to what was the reason for a private individual to file a petition now.
The dam has been constructed, there are no protests from Telangana nor any agitation is on. Even people on both sides of Babli project have forgotten the issue. What was the reason for resurrecting this case? In politics everyone knows one plus one is eleven. Similarly, the timing of resurfacing of this case raises doubts among people. It should also be noted that the court order, dated July 5 and supposed to be executed by August 16 — but was corrected to September 21.
One needs to view the recent developments taking place in Telangana after opposition had intensified its efforts to form a grand alliance. The authorities dug out a 14-year-old case of alleged human trafficking and sent Congress leader Jagga Reddy to jail. Another Congress leader A Revanth Reddy also got notices with regard to an old case pertaining to housing society. If you ask any common man about it, the instant reaction would be that it is a political game that’s on.
If a man drinks milk sitting under a toddy tree, people would presume that he is drinking toddy. In this case too even if the BJP really has no role (which is difficult to believe) in issuing of the non-bailable warrant, the timing is such that it gives rise to several questions and people are bound to believe that the BJP is indulging in politics of vendetta.
One thing is certain that this issue now has the potential to create trouble for BJP in AP and TRS in Telangana. Leaders like G Kamalakar, Ch Vijayarama Rao and Hanumanth Shinde also figure in the warrant. They were in TDP at that time. Kamalakar is contesting from Karimnagar on TRS ticket. What stand the TRS would be taking is interesting to watch.
The pink party, if the trends are any indication, will say that their candidates continue to pay for the misdeeds of Chandrababu Naidu. But then the Congress too seems to be getting ready with a counter argument. Naidu whom TRS alleges was anti-Telangana had at least dared to go up to Babli project fighting for the rights of people of Telangana while KCR never fought against the project nor did he participate in the million march or any other such major agitations.
As far as Andhra is concerned, the BJP perhaps thought that a political vacuum and confusion would be created if Naidu is arrested and it can be politically advantageous for BJP and its friendly parties. But then the BJP should not forget that people cannot be taken for granted.
This would help the TDP in Andhra Pradesh to reinforce the fact that the BJP-led Central government is resorting to vendetta politics. If the notice does anything, it will only help Chandrababu Naidu. If he attends the court, it will once again grab national attention. One can only hope that the ensuing elections, Assembly or Lok Sabha, will help clean the muck and an atmosphere of healthy politics would emerge irrespective of which party loses or wins. #KhabarLive