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Politicians cry foul over arrest warrant against Naidu, other TDP leaders

Andhra chief minister alleges Modi, Amit Shah and Jaganmohan Reddy behind “conspiracy”

Hyderabad: A lower court in Maharasthra has issued a non-bailable warrant against Andhra Pradesh (AP) Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and 15 others, in connection with a protest he led in the state against the Babili irrigation project in Nanded district, saying it was posing a threat to the interest of the then-Andhra Pradesh state.

The list of people against whom the Dharmabad court issued the warrant include AP irrigation minister Devineni Umamaheshwara Rao and many Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leaders who were MLAs at the time of the protest.

Naidu, who was leader of opposition in the then united AP assembly, had crossed the border into Maharashtra along with 40 MLAs and several other party leaders, trying to reach the Babili project to protest alleging that it would impound more Godavari river water and turn northern Telangana region into a desert.

Naidu was arrested and spent many days in a Maharashtra jail, later released on bail. Since then, the case has been pending in court.

Dharmabad court magistrate has ordered the police to produce all 16 respondents, including Naidu, before it on September 21.

The fresh warrants were issued after a local resident filed a petition before Dharmabad court. Nanded district police officials said they had filed a charge sheet in the court five years ago against the 16.

“Political conspiracy”

The new development has created a stir in both the Telugu states, with TDP leaders both in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana suspecting political motivation behind the attempt to revive the case.

In his first reaction, Naidu said that by fighting the Babili project, he had not committed a crime. “I had protested to save Telangana from becoming a desert”, he told a meeting after offering puja to the Krishna river at Srisailam project in Kurnool on Friday. “I told the police to do what they want that very day. They are issuing a warrant against me now,” he said.

Former Union Civil Aviation minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju condemned the arrest warrant and wondered why he was also on the list. “It’s not correct on Modi and Amit Shah’s part to revive old cases,” Raju said.

TDP MP from Vijayawada Kesineni Nani said that the warrant against Naidu for fighting for Telugu states was part of a political conspiracy by the centre.

“All these years, they said there was no case. How they can issue a non-bailable warrant against a chief minister like this?” he questioned.

He alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and the YSR Congress President YS Jaganmohan Reddy were the brains behind the conspiracy.

Interestingly AP Congress has also condemned the warrant against Naidu. State Congress President N Raghuveera Reddy said that it was wrong to book criminal cases against the leaders who take part in mass agitations.

However, state BJP President Kanna Lakshminarayana denied the BJP had anything to do with the warrant against Naidu. “TDP is acting a new drama by dragging in the prime minister’s name,” he said.

According to the BJP leader, the case was on since 2014 and the court had issued summons to Naidu and 22 others at the time, but they did not attend court. The case was booked against Naidu by the Congress government in Maharashtra, he added.

Meanwhile, the warrant has also become a topic of discussion in Telangana political circles, as it has potential to create some sympathy for TDP.

It has come at a time when the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) was trying to project the proposed TRS-TDP alliance in the state as “agent of Andhra” and “betrayer of Telangana”.

Senior Telangana TDP leader, R Chandrashekhar Reddy, recalled that they had experienced hell in Dharmabad jail in 2010. “We were arrested at the Maharashtra border and a group of 80 people was cramped in a small cell,” he said. He also wondered why cases were booked against them under nine different sections.

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