By T S Sudhir
This week, Andhra Pradesh’s health minister P Satyanarayana blamed the mosquitoes of Orissa for the high incidence of malaria in the tribal belt on the Andhra-Orissa border. Didn’t know the female anopheles came with her domicile status. But yes, mosquitoes have become the cause of Andhra Pradesh’s latest border disputes.
On the state’s north-western front, 75 Telugu Desam leaders led by party supremo Chandrababu Naidu are suffering the sting of the mosquitoes of Maharashtra, at Dharmabad since Friday night. So livid are the TDP honchos with the insult to Telugu atmagauravam (self-respect), that they plan to petition the National Human Rights Commission against this `inhuman’ treatment.
To protest against the bites, the party wants Andhra Pradesh to be `bandh’ on Monday. Naidu drove towards Maharashtra’s Nanded district on Friday morning to inspect the Babhali barrage being built on the river Godavari. But the neighbour’s government refused permission for any kind of dam tourism. When Naidu did not budge, the Maharashtra police took him into preventive custody for violating prohibitory orders. Bail was offered to him but Naidu was adamant he will not return home till he got a darshan of Babhali.
Naidu’s contention is that the Babhali barrage project is designed to enable Maharashtra to exploit more water, that would result in `desertification’ of six district of Telangana that are irrigated by the Godavari. Waterflow into the Sri Ramasagar project in Nizamabad, the lifeline of the region, would be severely affected.
From Maharashtra’s perspective, Babhali will bring over 8,000 hectares in Nanded under irrigation. A year after construction began in 2004, Andhra Pradesh complained to the Centre that if the barrage was completed, it would cause a reverse flow of water and Andhra Pradesh would be denied its share of waters awarded under an accord by the Godavari tribunal. The Central Water Commission set up a technical committee to investigate.
In 2006, Andhra Pradesh filed a suit in the Supreme Court urging it to restrain Maharashtra from proceeding with the construction. The following year, the court passed an interim order giving Maharashtra the go-ahead to construct the barrage, but asking it not to install the proposed 13 gates till further orders. The Maharashtra government claims it has not installed the gates as per the apex court order. TDP wants to physically verify that claim.
“We are not demanding demolition of the Babhali dam. We only want to see ourselves if they are following the Supreme court guidelines. We want to see what is happening on the ground at the dam site,” says M V Mysoora Reddy, TDP leader.
In response to Andhra Pradesh’s strident position on Babhali, a `Save Babhali Action Committee’ has sprung up whose chief Balaji Kompalwar points out that Naidu was the chief minister when the project was sanctioned.
“Now that he is in the Opposition, he is trying to make an issue out of it. It is nothing but a political stunt.”
Naidu’s critics in Hyderabad agree, pointing out that when the Supreme Court is hearing the matter and chief minister Rosaiah will lead an all-party delegation to the Prime Minister on 23rd July to voice Andhra Pradesh’s concerns, where was the need for Naidu to jump the gun.
It is an emotive issue, no doubt, for the people of Telangana and TDP must be given credit for being focussed on Babhali since 2006. In 2007, it sent a team of leaders to the same place. They were caned by the Maharashtra police and packed off to Hyderabad.
Naidu’s yatra at this point, however is seen as nothing but an attempt to indulge in televised campaigning for the byelections on 27th July, even while sitting in `judicial custody’ at Dharmabad’s ITI campus.
How would this help the TDP? By `fighting’ and `sacrificing’ his health and sleep for the Telangana region, Naidu would hope the region’s animosity to him will cease. With Telangana votaries not allowing him to move around freely in the region, this `campaign’ from an Industrial Training Institute campus is reminiscent of the Naidu of old. Hi-tech and out of the box.
The former CM, hailing from Rayalaseema, is seen as a votary of unified Andhra Pradesh. He has had a kabhi haan kabhi naa stance on the Telangana issue. The latest is his `two eyes’ theory where his one eye is for Telangana and the other for Seemandhra and therefore, he will not choose one over the other.
But Naidu watchers aver the wily politician will go with any eye that makes the Governor swear in `I, Nara Chandrababu Naidu’ as chief minister.
If the TDP is indeed able to reap some electoral benefits out of this stay at Dharmabad, you bet many a political party would start similar gimmicks. Already the `nataka’ of the opposition MLAs in Karnataka to move bed and bedding into the House in Vidhana Soudha, has triggered a chain of events that may see the Reddy brothers move out of their ministerial bungalows. (Though, I suspect that also has to do with some clever match-fixing between a section of the BJP and a section of the Congress to discharge some of the inconvenient ever-Reddys in both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh).
As I write this, TDP managers text to report the death of a party activist Nelson Raju, who reportedly committed suicide, aggrieved by Naidu’s arrest. I hope this doesn’t start a spiral of statistics of suicides by people upset with Naidu_arrest@dharmabad.
In this monsoon and election season, Andhra Pradesh is clearly in the grip of a political malaria, with each neta trying to ensure his rival gets the shivers.
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