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Flight snub to Andhra governor

Reddy, Narasimham

Hyderabad, Oct. 3: Andhra Pradesh governor E.S.L. Narasimhan was recently refused a plane ride back from Tirupati by the state government and asked to take a regular flight from Chennai the following day.

It is not often that a governor’s request is rejected, but chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy has been unhappy with Narasimhan, who, he thinks, is acting like a “super-government”.

On Monday, the governor’s secretariat wrote to the state’s chief secretary, expressing displeasure at the slight.

Narasimham, an ardent devotee of Lord Venkateswara who visits the temple to the deity in Hyderabad twice every day, was in Tirumala on September 22 with his family to participate in Garudotsavam — the busiest day of the annual Brahmotsavam festival.

After their flight back to Hyderabad on the morning of September 23 was cancelled by the private operator, he asked the state government for a chartered flight.

But the Reddy government told Narasimhan to take the government helicopter to Chennai, and return to Hyderabad by a regular flight the next day. Peeved, the governor rejected the offer of helicopter and drove down to Chennai.

The chief minister’s office was firm that there was no precedent for sending a special flight and that such personal religious trips at the expense of the state exchequer would lead to controversy.

Narasimhan, a former IPS officer who was joint director of the Intelligence Bureau, had last year rejected Reddy’s choice of vice-chancellors to several universities and forced him to propose alternative names. Earlier this year, he rejected the chief minister’s choice of politicians as information commissioners.

Since Narasimhan has taken charge as governor in 2010 — he had held additional charge of the state even earlier, since 2006 — he has been visiting Delhi every fortnight to report on the state’s affairs. The Kiran Reddy government has also been upset over his regular visits to the districts and what it sees as interference in the administration.

But buffeted by the Telangana agitation and dissidence within the Congress, the chief minister has been left wringing his hands in anger. The Tirupati trip gave him a chance to get his own back.

Even officials of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam were unhappy with the governor. As a practice, they appeal to all VIPS not to visit Tirumala on Garudotsavam, which attracted five lakh devotees this year. Even the chief minister visited three days early. But Narasimhan landed up with an entourage of 22. It was a Peritasi Saturday, which Tamilians consider auspicious, and there were over 1.5 lakh pilgrims from Tamil Nadu alone, a senior TTD official said.