A flying drone is an unlikely object to be associated with a political fight. However, for bitter political rivals in Andhra Pradesh, nothing is an exception, not even a drone.
In fact, a drone flying over the residence of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu on the banks of Krishna river near Vijayawada has triggered conspiracy theories.
Party leaders lost no time in alleging that the Jagan Mohan Reddy government had committed a security breach. They wondered why no permission was taken before conducting the drone survey, particularly when Naidu was a Z plus category protectee.
Naidu’s son and former minister Nara Lokesh took to Twitter to attack the YSR Congress Party government for ‘creating a threat’ to his father’s life.
“@ysjagan. Did you hand over a plan to your people to create a life threat to Chandrababu Naidu while leaving for America? Why were drones flown without permission over an ex-CM’s residence who has Z plus category security? What’s in the box along with the drones?” Lokesh tweeted.
Dismissing the allegation, the government said that the drone survey was conducted to assess the flood situation in the area in view of heavy inflows into Krishna river.
“Many parts of the region across Krishna river were inundated with an increase in inflows from the upstream. It is the responsibility of the government to evacuate people and send them to safer places. In this connection, drones were deployed for aerial survey,” irrigation minister Anil Kumar Yadav said.
It was not meant for any snooping activity, he clarified.
Earlier, tensions prevailed near Naidu’s riverfront rented residence at Undavelli on Friday (August 16) when TDP workers caught two drone operators and handed them over to the local police.
“The irrigation department officials arrived on time to clarify that they had employed the drone operators to assess the inundation in the area due to floods in Krishna river,” a local police official said.
However, the TDP leaders said they would lodge a complaint with the DGP over the alleged security breach.
The furore over the drone survey comes against the backdrop of the YSRCP government downgrading the security cover for Naidu. However, the High Court on Wednesday (August 17) directed the government to restore security cover, comprising 97 personnel from the state police department.
This will be in addition to the Z plus category security by National Security Guards (NSG) provided by the Centre, after the Maoist attack on his life at Alipiri in Tirupati in October 2003, when he was the chief minister of the combined Andhra Pradesh.
The state government had justified the reduction in the security cover on the grounds that Naidu was no more the chief minister but only an opposition leader. Naidu’s TDP lost power in the April 11 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh.
Politics over flooding
The political slanging between the TDP and the YSRCP continued in the midst of a flood threat to several low-lying areas in Krishna and Guntur districts.
Naidu’s son Lokesh alleged that boats were “deliberately stuck” inside the gates of Prakasam barrage in Vijayawada to prevent water from flowing out, thereby causing flooding upstream where Naidu’s residence is located.
“See how the YSRCP leaders conspired to bring floodwaters to Chandrababu Naidu’s house. Boats lined at the barrage gates,” Lokesh tweeted along with pictures showing boats blocking the gates of the barrage.
“They tried to sink a few boats to stop the water from passing through the gates. Now, the boats are coming out of the gates due to the speed of the water flow. The intention was to submerge Naidu’s house by increasing the water level in upstream region of Prakasam barrage,” Lokesh said.
Meanwhile, local authorities issued a notice on Friday, asking occupants of Naidu’s residence to immediately vacate the house in view of imminent flooding. The people in the neighbourhood too have been asked to vacate.
Naidu, who is now in Hyderabad, has been informed about the notice.
Over one lakh cusecs of water is set to be released from the upstream region of river Krishna. This will cause flooding at the Prakasam barrage in Vijayawada.
The TDP has alleged that the floods are a ploy to drive Naidu out of the house. However, the YSRCP has argued that the house was constructed on the riverbed violating environmental norms.
On June 28, a demolition notice was served, asking the owner of the luxurious villa Lingamaneni Ramesh, a leading real estate businessman, to reply within a week. Naidu had taken the house on lease in 2016 and subsequently, his TDP government built a convention hall ‘Praja Vedika’ adjacent to it in 2017. The swanky convention hall, constructed at a cost of ₹8 crore, was being used by Naidu to hold official and party meetings. The convention hall was demolished by the new government.