Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu has pledged his support to the ongoing agitation in Seemandhra, but stopped short of demanding that the State be kept united.

Mr. Naidu hit the road on the Vadapalli bridge at Pondugula of the Gurazala constituency on Sunday afternoon, kick-starting his ‘Atmagauravam’ (self-respect) yatra. The bridge divides Guntur and Nalgonda districts and Mr. Naidu chose to start the yatra in an open van after crossing over to Guntur district.

Tight security

A sizeable crowd waving party flags waited as Mr. Naidu arrived almost three hours behind schedule. A vast contingent of police and special forces in riot gear kept vigil. Addressing the crowd, Mr. Naidu invoked NTR and said the former Chief Minister was the first leader to instil self-respect among Telugu-speaking people. He spoke at length about his efforts in developing Hyderabad. “I wanted better jobs, educational opportunities and better future for our children,” he said. Expressing solidarity with the agitation, he demanded that the Centre bring the stakeholders of both regions together , and resume the process of consultations afresh before setting in motion the process of formation of separate state of Telangana.

“This agitation is more than 30 days old. People are coming out on the streets, ordinary men and women, employees and students and businessmen. The Centre should look into their problems and concerns over their jobs, higher studies, water and Hydearbad. It (Centre) should hold consultations with stakeholders not once or twice, but ten times, if necessary,’’ Mr. Naidu said. Launching a scathing attack on the Congress, he alleged that the latter had entered into a conspiracy with TRS in Telangana and the YSR Congress in Seemandhra to create a rift among Telugu-speaking people. “Their leaders openly talk of merger of the TRS. Sixteen MLAs belonging to the YSRC resign on July 26 even before an announcement on Telangana was made. They (YSRC) have direct link to Sonia Gandhi’s residence. Is it not a well-hatched conspiracy by the Congress to retain power in both regions?” Mr. Naidu questioned.

He blamed former Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy for initiating the process of forming Telangana by leading a delegation of 41 MLAs belonging to Telangana to Ms. Gandhi.

Referring to his letter given in favour of Telangana in 2008, he defended the act stating that he had done so seeking to resolve the issue.

Earlier, Mr. Naidu said that he had prevailed upon the then NDA regime not to grant statehood to Telangana. “Mr. Advani gave a statement that since Hyderabad is geographically located in Telangana, there is no reason to grant a separate state of Telangana,” he said.

Party leaders Kodela Siva Prasada Rao, MP M. Venugopala Reddy and Gurazala MLA Y. Srinivasa Rao were present.