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Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu today (Monday, Feb 11) began a day-long fast demanding that the Centre grant special status to the state and fulfil promises made before its bifurcation in 2014.

Naidu paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat before heading to Andhra Pradesh Bhavan to observe the fast. A TDP delegation led by Naidu will submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday, said media reports.

Naidu’s fast also became an occasion for a show of Opposition unity with a number of party leaders turning up to extend their support to the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief, said media reports. Congress President Rahul Gandhi arrived at N Chandrababu Naidu‘s one-day hunger strike against the Centre over special category status to Andhra Pradesh. National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah and NCP’s Majeed Memon are also present at the venue. Former Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Trinamool Congress’ Derek O’Brien were also among those present.

“I stand with the people of Andhra Pradesh. What kind of a PM is he? He did not fulfill the commitment made to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Mr Modi tells a lie wherever he goes. He has got no credibility left,” said Rahul Gandhi.

Accusing accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “facilitating loot”, Rahul Gandhi said, “Every defence deal has an anti-corruption clause. The Hindu has reported that the PM removed the anti-corruption clause. It is clear that the PM facilitated loot.”

The report in The Hindu stated that the PMO had waived key provisions of the anti-corruption clauses days before the defence agreement was signed. Quoting The Hindu report, the Congress, on its official Twitter handle, asked: “Who was the PMO trying to shield? Who was the PMO trying to benefit?”

Manmohan Singh, extending support to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu over the demand for special category status to the state, said, “I stand in support of Naidu, special category status promise must be implemented without any further delay,” adding that “demand for special status had support of all parties when it was discussed in Parliament.”

In February 2014, during his tenure as PM, Manmohan Singh had announced in the Rajya Sabha that special category status would be extended to the successor state of Andhra Pradesh comprising 10 districts, including four districts in Rayalaseema and three districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh, for a period of five years.

“Chandrababu Naidu ji, I would like to congratulate TDP. We started this fight four years back but there is a very important date – July 20, 2018 – when TDP brought in ‘No Confidence Motion’ in Lok Sabha. This scared Modi. After that on Jan 9, 2019 SP-BSP came together. After that, what happened on Jan 19?  On that day senior leaders of 22 political parties came on the same stage. Why am I mentioning these dates? Because after all of them, BJP got one new ally – CBI,” ANI quoted O’brien as saying.

Naidu has been trying to unite the opposition parties to take on the BJP in the general elections. Over the last three months, he has held a number of meetings with the opposition party leaders on forming an anti-BJP front.

In March last year, the TDP had pulled out of the NDA government over its refusal to grant a special status to Andhra Pradesh.

The party has been accusing the Narendra Modi government of not releasing enough funds for the Polavaram irrigation project, the Kadapa steel plant and Amravati, the under-construction ultra-modern state capital.

Earlier, as he began his fast, the TDP chief said the party was denied permission to stage a protest in Parliament premises. “So, we came here”.

“Today we came here all the way to protest against central government. Yesterday, PM visited Andhra Pradesh, Guntur one day before the dharna. What is the need, I am asking,” said Chandrababu Naidu.

He warned that Modi would be given a befitting answer if he made personal attacks against the people of his state. “On behalf of five crore people, I’m warning this government… I came here to remind you of the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act,” Naidu said.

“I am warning you. Don’t make personal attacks against me and my people. It’s unwarranted. I am just doing my duty as the head of my state. We are only demanding what we were promised,” he said, adding if somebody “attacks our self respect, we will not tolerate it”.

On Sunday, responding to PM Modi’s charge that Naidu was only interested in promoting his son Lokesh  and not the state’s development, the TDPchief said the Prime Minister wouldn’t understand much as he didn’t even give due respect to his wife.

Stating that he was against personal attacks, but was compelled to do so, Naidu said, “Yes Lokesh is my son. …. You don’t have a family, no relations. I’m one who respects the family… wants to spend time with the family…. I am the father of Lokesh, grandfather of Devansh and husband of Bhuvaneshvari. And I’m proud of it,” Naidu said. “Does Modi have any respect for the family system? Has he ever spoken about his family?”

He then asked his audience: “Do you know he has a wife? They enacted the (instant) triple talaq law to protect women from being divorced by just the word being uttered three times. This is Yashodaben’s husband. Yes or no? He hasn’t even divorced her. He has just left her.”

Naidu said he wouldn’t have raised the issue had Modi not launched personal attacks: “I wouldn’t have spoken about this but you became personal. I have always respected women. I’m a big brother to all the women in the state.”

The chief minister was speaking at patta distribution ceremony in Vijayawada.

Modi, claiming that Naidu was always keen to portray his seniority, had said the former was his senior in defections, back-stabbing and opportunist politicking.

“Your CM often keeps saying he is quite a senior politician. Of course he is. A senior in changing colours last minute and forming alliances. Senior in back-stabbing his own father-in-law for power,” Modi told the gathering.

He also slammed the TDP chief for joining hands with the Congress, which he said was a betrayal of Naidu’s father-in-law and TDP founder, NT Rama Rao. “Naidu had said he would follow NTR’s footsteps, but is he really doing so. NTR had fought for a Congress-free India. Mukt-Congress has now become dost-Congress [friend of Congress] for Naidu.”

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