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Naidu to skip ceremony

Hyderabad, Dec. 25: Telugu Desam boss N. Chandrababu Naidu has decided not to attend Narendra Modi’s swearing-in as Gujarat chief minister and also dissuaded his brother-in-law N. Balakrishna from being present at the event tomorrow.

BJP strategists had also invited Balakrishna, NTR’s actor son, to drive a wedge between him and Naidu. The invite to Balakrishna had created ripples in the Desam, which was once an NDA ally before it parted ways accusing the BJP of being a communal party.

Desam leaders had been surprised by the invite. While Naidu knows Modi personally, state BJP chief Kishan Reddy had reportedly included Balakrishna’s name on the list of invitees. A party spokesperson confirmed that he had been invited as the son of Desam’s founder, late N.T. Rama Rao.

Party sources said Naidu, who was on a padayatra (march) in Karimnagar district, decided not to attend the event and also advised Balakrishna to excuse himself. “Our party president is busy with his padayatra. Balayya (Balakrishna) wanted to attend the ceremony but was advised not to,” said Babu Rajendra Prasad, a party MLC from Krishna.

Naidu, with over 30 MPs from Andhra, had been the darling of the BJP-led NDA till 2004. So, when he distanced himself from the NDA after the combine’s election defeat that year, it had upset the BJP.

Sources said the BJP wanted Naidu to be present at the swearing in to rub salt into his wounds after the party’s inroads into Telangana. It has won two Assembly seats in the bypoll while the Desam failed to win any.