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Campaigns reach wild heights

Incidents of leaders hurling mikes and having a go at each other during assembly sessions are now passe, reports Ashok Das.

india Updated: Oct 24, 2006 03:28 IST
Ashok Das

Politicians are very rarely civil while dealing with their rivals — even in the best of times.

Incidents of leaders hurling mikes and having a go at each other during assembly sessions are now passé. The latest bout is set in Vijayawada, the erstwhile political and cultural capital of Andhra Pradesh.

It all started about 10 days ago, when Telugu Desam Party activists in Guntur decorated a buffalo in Congress party colours and hung a placard around its neck that read: "I am Rajasekhar Reddy. I am thick-skinned and insulated to criticism. Do whatever you like, I will not resign."

The buffalo was taken around the streets of the town as part of the TDP's state-wide campaign to force Rajasekhar Reddy to resign in the wake of the Supreme Court order quashing the pardon granted to murder convict Venkat Reddy.

The Congress hit back. They painted a donkey in the Telugu Desam's yellow colour and, like the TDP's buffalo, hung a placard around its neck that read: "I am Chandrababu Naidu. I speak lies and utter lies. I change my stand to suit myself. I betrayed my father-in-law for the sake of power."

The donkey led a procession of slogan-shouting Congressmen through the streets of Vijaywada.

Congress activists thought the TDP hadn't been hit hard enough. So two days later, they took out another rally with a dog in TDP colours. This time, the placard read: "I am Chandrababu Naidu. I only bark."

The battle had just begun. The TDP got a man to look like Rajsekhar Reddy and paraded him through the streets with a group of seemingly irate women chasing him and thrashing him with chappals, broomsticks, rotten eggs and tomatoes.

What were the police doing all the while? The drama was too good for them to interrupt. But they couldn't enjoy it for too long.

After the mock-bashing of the chief minister's lookalike, which was beamed live on several TV news channels, the government asked Vijayawada police commissioner Umesh Sharraf to proceed on leave. The police were told to book cases against all the offenders.

"Had the police commissioner acted in the beginning, the situation would not have come to such a pass," a senior official said.

PCC president Keshav Rao decried the "mean and vulgar protests by Opposition parties”.

Terming the mock bashing of a chief minister lookalike as reprehensible, he appealed to all political parties not to denigrate political institutions and parties.