Naidu detained during day-long ‘high drama’ at Renigunta airport

TDP chief sits in protest against denying permission to stage dharna in Tirupati, Chittoor

It was a hectic day of political activity as former Chief Minister and TDP national President Nara Chandrababu Naidu was detained at the Renigunta airport here, after the authorities denied him permission into the city on Monday as he arrived at the tarmac. After fervent appeals by officials and a spate of protests by party workers across the State, Mr. Naidu finally left by 7.15 p.m. flight, making the officials heave a sigh of relief.

Mr. Naidu was scheduled to attend two dharna programmes, one at the Gandhi statue in Tirupati and the other at the Gandhi Circle in Chittoor city, protesting against the ruling party’s ‘high-handed attitude’ in cracking down on opposition leaders. The Tirupati dharna was to show resentment over the manner in which the ruling YSR Congress Party government had allegedly misused its official machinery in pulling down a tea stall belonging to a TDP worker situated in front of a leading cinema theatre, dubbing it an ‘encroachment’.

Questions police action

Squatting at the airport arrival lounge, Mr. Naidu sought to know from the police officials if it was the manner to treat an opposition leader who had served as the Chief Minister for three terms and accused them of acting at the behest of the ruling party. He refused to leave the spot and insisted on at least meeting the Collector and the Superintendent of Police, if allowed out of the airport.

Superintendent of Police (Tirupati Urban) Ch. Venkata Appala Naidu told the media that the department had declined permission for the Telugu Desam Party’s (TDP) dharna programme, citing the model code of conduct in vogue. The application for dharna, submitted online late on Sunday night, had to be rejected also in view of the likelihood of a second wave of COVID-19 spreading in Tirupati. The party leaders also did not give sufficient time to the department to act, the SP said, adding that according permission to stage dharna at the Gandhi statue close to the APSRTC bus station would also cause inconvenience to visiting pilgrims and also affect the movement of patients in ambulances.

Later, Mr. Venkata Appala Naidu personally went to the airport and appealed to the Leader of the Opposition to leave the spot.

Earlier, TDP Tirupati parliamentary constituency in charge G. Narasimha Yadav, Satyavedu Assembly segment in charge J.D. Rajasekhar, TNSF national coordinator A. Ravi Naidu were arrested when they arrived at the airport to receive Mr. Naidu, while Tirupati former MLA M. Sugunamma was placed under house arrest. Several leaders were detained and brought to the Tirupati East police station to ‘bring the situation under control’.

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