Hyderabad/Nanded (Maharashtra), July 16 (Calcutta Tube) Amid high drama, Maharashtra police arrested Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and 75 other party leaders who had reached Nanded to visit the controversial Babli project on the Godavari river.
Tension prevailed at Andhra-Maharashtra border as the Maharashtra Police took Naidu and nine other TDP leaders into custody after assuring them that they would be taken to the project site.
Later, the police arrested 66 other TDP leaders at the border near Dharmabad in Maharashtra’s Nanded district, about 350 km from here.
Naidu and other arrested TDP leaders including MPs, Andhra legislators and former ministers were taken to the Dharmabad police station.
Some TDP activists, who continued to stage protest at the border, alleged that Maharashtra police betrayed Naidu and others by promising to take them to Babi dam.
Maharashtra mobilised hundreds of policemen and sealed the border to stop Naidu and his party legislators who reached there from Hyderabad in four buses.
Speaking on the occasion, Naidu lashed out at Maharashtra government for not allowing them to visit Babli and said this was being done to suppress the truth. ‘Do we need visas to visit a place in Maharashtra?’ he asked.
The former Andhra Pradesh chief minister alleged that they had every right to survey Babli and 13 other projects being illegally constructed by Maharashtra across the Godavari.
As the tension continued to mount, senior police officials of Maharashtra’s Nanded district agreed to allow a 10-member delegation to visit Babli. Naidu and nine others were taken to the project site in a police vehicle. However, they were arrested after the vehicle travelled some distance.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah spoke to Naidu over phone Thursday night, advising him to call off his ‘bus yatra’ that he said would heighten tensions between the two states.
Naidu, however, ignored Rosaiah’s appeal as well as the decision of the Maharashtra government not to allow him to enter the state.
Naidu had invited Rosaiah and leaders of all parties, including the ruling Congress, to join the yatra. But only leaders of the Lok Satta party joined him.
The TDP chief told reporters that it was a fact-finding mission aimed to start a national debate on Babli and 13 other illegal projects across Godavari.
Alleging that Maharashtra was going ahead with the works on Babli in violation of Supreme Court orders, he said the Andhra Pradesh government was doing nothing to stop the projects, which would prove disastrous for the state and turn Telangana into a desert.
The opposition party has alleged that the Congress government was not serious about stopping the illegal projects in Maharashtra which would take away the state’s rightful share of Godavari waters.
Rosaiah plans to take an all-party delegation to Delhi on July 23 to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to urge him to ask Maharashtra to stop construction of illegal projects.