Chandrababu Naidu accuses PMO of colluding with ‘tainted’ politicians to target him
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu stepped up his anti-BJP offensive on Thursday, accusing the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of using people suspected of criminal wrongdoing to undertake witch-hunts against him and his government.
In his address to the state legislative council, Naidu – also the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president – referred to a statement by YSR Congress MP V Vijay Sai Reddy that he would continue to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi until the chief minister was thrown into prison. “I don’t need Chandrababu Naidu’s permission to meet the Prime Minister. I can meet anybody I want. I will continue to meet the Prime Minister to submit all the evidence at my disposal on the corruption charges against Naidu. I will not rest until he (the chief minister) is dragged to court,” Sai Reddy had told mediapersons in Delhi on Wednesday.
Naidu alleged that Sai Reddy was an economic offender, and the “accused no 2” in CBI cases filed against YSR Congress president YS Jaganmohan Reddy. “Now he is seen in the PMO, regularly meeting Modi. How can the Prime Minister allow an accused in criminal cases into his office? What message is the PMO sending by entertaining a person who threatens to put me behind bars?” he asked.
The party president, however, added that he was not scared by the tactics employed by his detractors. “The PMO may even allow Sai Reddy’s family to stay there, if it so desires,” he quipped.
In his response, BJP state president K Hari Babu criticised the TDP president for dragging the PMO into his “murky” politics. “Sai Reddy is an MP, and has every right to approach the PMO on any issue. He is an accused, not a convict. If the charges against him are proved, he will be disqualified and stripped of access to the PMO,” he said.
In a teleconference with party seniors earlier in the day, Naidu had expressed apprehensions that the Centre may resort to a witch-hunt against him and the ruling party. He was referring to a demand put forth by BJP floor leader P Vishnu Kumar Raju the previous day for a CBI or judicial probe into the alleged misappropriation of Rs 371 crore in executing the Pattiseema lift irrigation scheme.
It was then that state finance minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu pointed out how Sai Reddy was making the rounds of the PMO with demands of a CBI inquiry into the Polavaram irrigation project. Naidu said the manner in which the BJP has begun demanding a CBI probe into the irrigation project at this juncture, after keeping mum for the four years spent as a TDP ally, clearly shows that it was gearing up for a witch-hunt against the ruling party in collusion with the YSR Congress.
“They want to create trouble for me by filing cases but I am not afraid,” he said. “Several cases were filed against me in the past, but not a single one was proved.”
The chief minister, however, said the Centre could impede the Polavaram project on the pretext of probing the alleged irregularities. “If anything of that sort happens, the farmers themselves will revolt,” he said. “We will not let anything harm farmers’ interests.”
Naidu asked his party leaders to be on their guard as the Centre may look for opportunities to target him and his government at any time.
The BJP state president, however, said it was for the courts to decide whether any misappropriation had taken place. “I leave the chief minister’s allegations of conspiracy against the BJP to his wisdom,” he remarked.