Does a Modi by chartering a plane to airlift stranded pilgrims from AP

Telugu Desam president N. Chandrababu Naidu on Monday chartered a flight to airlift Andhra Pradesh pilgrims who were rescued from the flood-ravaged areas of Uttarakhand, in a move widely perceived as political one upmanship and an attempt to embarrass the Congress government.

By emulating Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi in facilitating speedy return of at least some distraught pilgrims to Hyderabad from Dehradun, Mr. Naidu appears to have scored a political point as the Congress government was still relying on a long train journey back home.

On Sunday, a Minister had promised to consult the Chief Minister, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, on airlifting the fatigued passengers but apparently no decision was taken till Monday evening.

Meets Uttarakhand CM

The TDP chief, who returned from the U.S. on Sunday morning, pipped the Congress to the post in other areas too. Without wasting time, he rushed to Delhi to console the rescued pilgrims at AP Bhavan, participated in a flash ‘dharna’ to highlight their plight and then air-dashed to Dehradun to meet the Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Vijay Bahuguna. His appeal to Mr. Bahuguna was to come to the rescue of pilgrims who continued to be stranded. Accompanied by party MPs, he also called on another batch of AP pilgrims being treated at a hospital there.

Lokesh plea

Before meeting Mr. Bahuguna, he shot off a letter to him alleging discrimination in airlifting of 400 AP pilgrims stranded at Harsil near Gangotri.

Though they were given tokens they were being bypassed and those from other states were being airlifted. Forty other pilgrims who were taking shelter in Andhra Ashram at Rishikesh have not received any relief, he complained. The TDP president then made party to launch help centres and dedicated helplines for the pilgrims. But the party’s attempt to set up a health camp at AP Bhavan was not allowed by the government.

While Mr. Naidu was busy in Delhi and Dehradun, his son, Lokesh, trustee of the NTR Memorial Trust, described the floods in Uttarakhand as “worst natural disaster” and made an appeal to philanthropists, corporates and individuals to donate in the form of cheques and DDs in favour of the trust.