Minister refuses to resign; police thwart trouble at Bapatla station

Union Minister of State for Petroleum & Natural Gas Panabaka Lakshmi was confronted by supporters of unified Andhra Pradesh here on Thursday. She refused to commit herself to resigning purportedly for creating a situation where the Congress high command will withdraw its decision to divide the State.

“I am individually in favour of unified State but will stick to my party’s stand on the issue,” she said and stopped short of promising to quit her post if the ruling party went ahead with formation of Telangana.

A large number of activists of Samaikyandhra movement made an attempt to grill the Minister at railway station in the early hours when she arrived from Chennai, but they were prevented by policemen from moving close toward her in anticipation of trouble.

However, the protesters caught up with her at the relay hunger strike camp of teachers with whom she wanted to express solidarity. They demanded that the Minister resign immediately if she was really favouring unified State, but could not extract a word from her.

Amidst slogan-shouting, Ms. Lakshmi replied that she was against bifurcation in her individual capacity and could not differ with the party’s top brass. She told supporters of unified State that she would tender her resignation if that would help in stalling the process of formation of Telangana state.

The supporters of unified State kept shouting slogans against her and rued the fact that the issue of bifurcation would not have re-emerged had people’s representatives of the Congress party held wide-ranging consultations before taking the hasty decision, which was to divide the State. Ms. Lakshmi left the teachers’ camp amidst tight security before the tempers frayed further.