ANDHRA PRADESH

TDP too gets caught up in flag row

HYDERABAD Jan. 28. Republic Day celebrations have not given so much of ammunition for the arch political rivals in the State -- the Congress and the TDP -- to slug it out in the open as is happening this year.

First, it was the turn of the TDP to demand an apology from the APCC president who hoisted the party flag instead of the national flag at Gandhi Bhavan on January 26. The TDP termed it "a dishonour to the national flag'' and demanded an unconditional apology from him for the gaffe. Today it is the turn of the Congress to pay back in the same coin.

The PCC chief spokesperson, K. Rosaiah, has taken exception to TDP leaders' remarks and asked whether it was proper for the party to "dishonour'' the national flag by hoisting it below the TDP flag. "You cannot blame someone for hoisting their party flag though we feel sorry we committed a mistake. It certainly is not a sin nor does it flout any of the eight provisions that attract the term dishonour,'' the party maintains.

But then the TDP has to contend with only one rival whereas the Congress has to do with its internal rivalry too which is setting the stage for a bigger fight.

The TDP spokesperson, R. Chandrasekhar Reddy, and its general secretary, M.A. Sharief, on Monday demanded an unconditional apology from the PCC president, M. Satyanarayana Rao. (They also went to the extent of saying that dissensions among Congress leaders led to the unseemly development).

Within the Congress the fracas, however, is attaining bigger proportions with the rival groups hardening their stance. The AICC secretary and a leader of late espousing the BC cause within the party (read anti-Satyanarayana Rao/Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy cause), V. Hanumantha Rao, is almost baying for the head of the PCC chief for the faux pas. Soon after the incident, he angrily announced that he would not tolerate the ignominy to the national flag and would take it to the notice of the party high command.

Mr. Hanumantha Rao's demand for action at the AICC level has almost boomeranged as one of the persons suspended now in the episode is said to be the one from his own flock. Be that as it may, the tussle took a new turn with the PCC president expressing anguish over the debacle but firmly declaring that he would "put an end to the rot within the party'' on Tuesday.

Mr. Satyanarayana Rao now is resolute that "whoever is responsible, must face action. Your rivalry cannot throw mud on the national flag and the Congress prestige. Such a low and base behaviour is unwarranted.'' "And let that be at the cost of my job. I shall fight for the prestige of the party and the flag till the last drop of my blood'', Mr. Rao fumes.

Meanwhile, the BJP too joined the issue by demanding an apology from the Congress. However, the party refused to comment on the

TDP's hoisting the flag at a lower level.

Some flogging for the flag! But then the Congress is known to provide comic relief to people always. Of late moreso. Rivals can sit back and watch the fun.

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