Congress and TDP MPs compete over airlifting maximum number of pilgrims from Dehradun

The ugly clash between the Congress and the TDP MPs in Dehradun was a culmination of tension building since Wednesday morning over ferrying the evacuated pilgrims of Char Dham yatra.

Right from morning, there was intense competition among the two parties to ensure that maximum number of pilgrims were airlifted from Dehradun to Hyderabad by flights arranged by them.

Sources said that there was a flurry of activity on the part of TDP leaders once it became clear that the State government had arranged a special flight to bring back the pilgrims directly to Hyderabad from Dehradun. The TDP till then had not planned to charter a flight. Instead, they had planned to bring the pilgrims from Dehradun to Delhi and put them on regular flights.

Sources said the TDP leaders had bought 30 tickets on the Dehradun-Delhi Spicejet flight. The TDP leaders reportedly came to Andhra Ashram and started wooing the pilgrims saying that they would take them by flight. When the Congress Ministers and others objected to what they called ‘unethical poaching’, the TDP leaders left the place. Within in no time, the scene shifted to Jolly Grant airport, where the government-sponsored flight was ready. The pilgrims were brought in a bus to the airport and given boarding passes to get on to the chartered flight.

By then, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu too arrived by a special flight and the TDP MPs -- Ramesh Rathod and K. Narayana -- made a last ditch effort to snatch the pilgrims onto their flight. In the presence of their leader, the TDP MPs were seen persuading some pilgrims whose baggage had already been loaded on the special plane to come with them. There was a tussle between the TDP and Congress leaders over the issue and the war of words almost turned into a scuffle.

A reliable source said that Mr. Naidu picked up an argument with Special Officer Sanjay Kumar, who was guiding the pilgrims to the plane. He reportedly confronted the officer questioning him why the pilgrims were not being sent to the TDP chartered flight.

Civil Supplies Minister D. Sridhar Babu, who has been camping in Dehradun for the past three days, lamented that the TDP leaders were continuously hindering their work by indulging in ‘competitive politics’. “We were feeling embarrassed as the TDP leaders followed us wherever we went. They were resorting to ‘parallel’ activities,” he pointed out. Housing Minister N. Uttam Kumar Reddy termed the TDP leaders behaviour ‘disgraceful’.

TDP MP Ramesh Rathod alleged that Congress leaders tried to delay the bus carrying the pilgrims from Badrinath.