Naidu dares; Kiran shrugs off

Naidu dares; Kiran shrugs off

Had Kiran Kumar Reddy gone to Uttarakhand, he would have been seen on par with the other chief ministers who had visited the affected areas and spoke...

Had Kiran Kumar Reddy gone to Uttarakhand, he would have been seen on par with the other chief ministers who had visited the affected areas and spoke to the people from their States

Political Analyst

Hyderabad : TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu did not waste a minute after reaching Hyderabad from the US in the wee hours of Sunday. By plunging straightaway into relief operations under way to rescue the pilgrims stranded in Uttarakhand, he stole a march over Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy who could not go there for more than week.

After the tsunami made river Ganga swell out of bounds and left thousands of unsuspecting pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh and other states stranded without food and medicines, the chief ministers of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu acted with alacrity and commiserated with pilgrims from their respective States. While Modi dashed like a superman to Uttarakhand, met Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, made an aerial survey of the affected areas, and arranged planes for moving the pilgrims to safety; Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot went to Dehradun, met the Chief Minister of that State and made arrangements for ferrying the people of his state back to their homes. Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu also took prompt steps to send an aircraft to rescue Tamils.

Kiran Kumar Reddy did rush Sanjay Kumar, Member Secretary, AP Pollution Control Board to Delhi, and then to Dehradun, soon after hearing the alarming news. The Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner Radha was also sent post-haste to the flooded State. Two senior ministers Dhanam Nagender and D Sridhar Babu also went to Dehradun and spoke to the affected travelers from Andhra Pradesh and assured them of all help. But the pilgrims who returned were spitting fire at the central ministers from the State and the State Cabinet ministers for not coming to their rescue. They complained that they were not treated properly by the army personnel and the officials of Uttarakhand. Had Kiran Kumar Reddy gone there, things would have been different, they chorused.

True. Had Kiran gone there, the Chief Minister would have been seen on par with the other chief ministers who visited the affected areas and spoke to the people from their States even if there were any difference in the situation or the treatment meted out to Telugu pilgrims. Instead of traveling northwards, the chief minister went eastwards to spend a couple of days in East Godavari. Two other star politicians from the ruling party, PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana and Union Minister of State for Tourism K Chiranjeevi chose to visit Guntur district with a view to mobilizing support for the Congress party during the forthcoming general election. This has shown the chief minister, PCC president and Union Ministers in poor light and in striking contrast to other chief ministers and the State Opposition leader.

The government has taken 10 days to collect the details of the pilgrims who went on a visit to Kedarnath and give district-wise break-up of the figures. The government does not have any helicopter of its own. There were two choppers when YS Rajasekhara Reddy was chief minister. One crashed in September, 2009, killing YSR, while the other one was destroyed in a fire accident at Begumpet airport. The Chief Minister hires a private helicopter for his use. It did not occur to him, perhaps, that the situation in Uttarakhand is so grim and the travails of the Telugu pilgrims so heart-rending that it warrants flash reaction from him and that he should immediately take extraordinary measures to cope with the extraordinary circumstances. In sum, the government was found wanting on all counts.

Naidu, on the other hand, showed fast reflexes, dynamism, and palpable concern for the affected persons. After reaching home on Sunday, he conferred with the TDP leaders available in the city and took charge of the situation. He addressed a media conference at 1 pm and air-dashed to Delhi by 3.30 pm.

At AP Bhavan, he met the pilgrims who reached there from Uttarakhand. Naidu met the Resident Commissioner at AP Bhavan before organizing a dharna in protest against the alleged lack of concern on the part of the government. He distributed Rs 10,000 each in cash to about fifty persons. On Monday, he went to Dehradun, met Vijay Bahuguna, spoke to the affected people at the relief camps. On learning that more that 400 Telugus are stranded in mountains, he requested the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand to help rescue them.

He hired a chartered flight and arranged to fly some of the pilgrims to Delhi. An aircraft brought 190 persons from Delhi to Hyderabad. About 150 of them disembarked at the Shamshabad airport and the rest were flown to Vizag. Naidu stayed back in Delhi. He will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow before leaving again for Dehradun in the afternoon. Naidu's son Lokesh was at the airport to receive the pilgrims in Hyderabad and to oversee the operations to help them. A team of 20 doctors from Basavatarakam Cancer Hospital, along with medicines worth Rs 2 lakh, is proceeding to Dehradun.

A control room has been opened at NTR Bhavan here to work round-the-clock to receive calls from the pilgrims and attend to their requests. Medicines worth Rs 10 lakh are being flown by cargo. Naidu may hire another aircraft on Tuesday if necessary to ferry some more persons from Dehradun. Nobody can accuse Naidu of taking advantage of the situation. Not even Kiran Kumar Reddy.

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