Saturday's police firing incident in Khammam that claimed eight lives continued to provide ammunition for the Opposition’s attack on the government. The Telugu Desam Party, the BJP and the UPA’s Left allies stepped up their demand for Chief Minister Y.S. Rajashekhara Reddy’s removal over the incident. The Congress rallied behind Reddy publicly, but privately, its leaders said the controversies around the chief minister were denting the party’s image.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for the state on Monday night to review investment and agriculture projects there. Before that, he spoke to Reddy and expressed regret to the families of the firing incident victims.
But the TDP was not satisfied with his “inadequate response”. Continuing the party’s agitation, its president N. Chandrababu Naidu said they will fast in protest at Indira Park on Tuesday, to coincide with Dr Singh’s visit.
Naidu said he had asked the prime minister to visit Mudigonda to see the situation firsthand. He wanted the prime minister to “remove” Reddy. Left parties also joined him in the demand. Senior party leaders called the firing on the activists of the Communist Party of India and CPI (Marxist) “unwarranted.” The Congress defended Reddy, without alluding to the recent firing incident in West Bengal’s Nandigram. “Unlike several such incidents, the AP government moved swiftly, to take disciplinary action against errant police officials, declared compensation, announced a judicial inquiry and began every effort to calm the atmosphere,’’ said AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi.
The statement from the prime minister’s office also took note of the Left’s agitation to seek land for the poor in the state and said: “The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s commitment to redistribute the surplus land and fulfil commitments to the rural poor.”
The CPM blamed the state Congress unit for spreading “misinformation” about the firing incident. V Srinivasa Rao, member of the CPM Central Committee, denied that party cadres had turned violent and had not attacked the area police station. “The Additional SP, in an unusual move, reached the area with the anti-naxalite squad who were armed with AK-47s and LMGs (light machine guns). Even as the lathi-charge was going on, the police began firing without warning, killing six people," Rao said.