Hyderabad, Oct. 1: Chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu escaped an attempt on his life with injuries after a series of landmine blasts triggered by Naxalites sent his car careening off the road near the temple town of Tirupati.
The Andhra Pradesh leader, who was on his way to the Venkateswara temple in Tirumala, suffered a fracture on his right hand and injured his left collarbone.
The blasts occurred around 4.10 this afternoon when about 40,000 people had gathered at the hilltop shrine for the annual Brahmotsavam festival. State minister B. Gopalakrishna Reddy and legislators C. Krishnamurthy and R. Rajasekhar Reddy were among the others injured. Rajasekhar Reddy’s condition is said to be serious.
The attack on the convoy sent senior ministers of Naidu’s cabinet into a huddle. After the meeting, home minister T. Devendra Goud said the “chief minister is completely safe and is enquiring about the incident”. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee called up to enquire about Naidu’s health.
Eyewitnesses said they heard a blast moments after Naidu’s car crossed the main entry gate — Alipiri — at the foot of the Tirumala hills. It caught the chief minister’s bulletproof car in the middle from the right. Naidu always sits in the left front seat.
Goud said the People’s War Group had planted six claymore (a type of anti-personnel) mines in the bushes on the right side of the Ghat Road about 500 yards from the main entrance to the temple. He said four of the mines exploded, though police are yet to ascertain the number.
“The extent of damage and explosion gives us an indication that there might have been a large cache of mines kept together. We are still investigating,” said a police official.
The blasts, which came a day after PWG extremists abducted two police constables in neighbouring Anantapur district and killed one of them, also pointed to a major security lapse. “Normally, the jammer vehicle, which disrupts all signals, goes first and is closely followed by the chief minister’s car. But today, the jammer was not taken to Tirupati,” said an official source.
The PWG has been looking for an opportunity to strike at the chief minister ever since the failure of the peace talks to end the violence in rural areas. The Naidu regime had also arrested 12 extremist leaders, including some writers, under the anti-terror law.
The explosions ensured that for the first time since he assumed power, Naidu could not be at the annual festival. Naidu and his wife Bhuvaneswari have never missed the occasion in the last seven years. Naidu was to have joined her at the temple to offer clothes to the deity.