In terms of its ruthlessness, the revenge politics in Andhra Pradesh is beginning to resemble the rivalry of the Dravidian parties of the neighbouring Tamil Nadu. In an unprecedented development, the former Chief Minister and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N Chandrababu Naidu was put under house arrest, along with his son Nara Lokesh, while scores of the opposition leaders were arrested across the state on Wednesday (September 11).
The string of arrests was to prevent opposition leaders from taking out a rally to Atmakur village in Palnadu region of Guntur district to protest against the alleged atrocities against the TDP workers by the ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP).
The “Chalo Atmakur” rally was meant to express solidarity with the people who were allegedly attacked and hounded out of their villages allegedly by YSRCP leaders in the last few days for supporting the TDP. The opposition party has alleged that at least eight of its workers were killed in the attacks, a charge denied by the YSRCP which has also given a call for a counter rally.
This has triggered tension in the region. Amid high drama, Chandrababu Naidu was put under house arrest at his riverfront residence at Vundavalli in Amaravati in the wee hours of Wednesday. He sat on a day-long fast at his residence and asked the party leaders and cadres to follow the suit in their respective areas across the state to protest against the highhanded attitude of the police.
The Palnadu region, covering parts of Guntur and Prakasam districts, is prone to political violence. While post-election violence is not uncommon in this region, it has been particularly fierce and sustained this time around.
The Jagan Mohan Reddy government’s decisions to cancel key projects of the previous TDP regime and his frequent public statements vowing to expose the corruption of his bete noir Chandrababu Naidu has led to the escalation of tension.
Soon after the change of guard in the state following landslide victory of the YSRCP in the April 11 elections, the supporters of the ruling party allegedly constructed a wall to stop TDP supporters from using a road in Ponugupadu village in Guntur district.
The local media reports spoke about the growing friction in the region. There were also reports about some roads being destroyed in parts of villages where voters were suspected to be sympathetic to TDP.
The TDP has been alleging that its workers were being constantly targeted by the ruling party activists while the police remained a mute spectator. The party had claimed that the violent acts had risen in Palnadu region since the declaration of Assembly election results.
Last week, the TDP set up a ‘rehabilitation centre’ for the ‘victims of the ruling party’ at its headquarters in Guntur. As many as 127 families have been provided shelter there. The ruling party, however, retorted that the so-called victims were ‘paid artists’.
It is in this backdrop that the TDP gave a call for ‘Chalo Atmakur’ — a small town in the violence-prone Palnadu region of Guntur district. Naidu was to march to Atmakur along with the families of 127 workers who were allegedly attacked and threatened.
On its part, the ruling party has also planned a counter-march in protest against the alleged violence unleashed by the previous TDP government on its cadre.
Anticipating trouble, the police issued prohibitory orders and banned all kinds of rallies and dharnas in the Palnadu region.
“I have not seen such atrocious governance in my four decades of political career,” Naidu said, before undertaking day-long fast at his residence.
Several TDP leaders, including MLAs and MPs, have been taken into custody as a preventive measure. Vijayawada MP Kesineni Nani, former minister Gollapalli Surya Rao, TDP youth wing president Devineni Avinash, MLC Dinesh Reddy and several others were arrested at the Prakasam Barrage connecting Vijayawada and Guntur.
“By putting the TDP leaders under house arrest and restricting the victims from protesting against the violation of their freedoms, the YSRCP government is denying the people their fundamental rights given by the constitution,” tweeted the TDP’s Parliamentary Party leader Galla Jayadev.
The present situation is reminiscent of a similar drama that had unfolded on January 26, 2017 when Jagan, then the leader of the opposition, was denied entry into Visakhapatnam to lead a rally seeking Special Category status for AP.
When the police took him into custody to prevent him from marching to Ramakrishna Beach in the city, he sat on an impromptu dharna on the airport runway.
The situation in the state is likely to deteriorate further in the coming days, given the bitterness between the two regional parties.