The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Naidu rings poll bell for party

Hyderabad, Nov. 9: The Andhra Pradesh chief minister today announced his intention to go for early polls, coming clean for the first time since he hinted at riding the “sympathy wave” generated by last month’s Naxalite attack on him.

. Chandrababu Naidu, however, did not disclose the schedule while addressing workers of his Telugu Desam Party via satellite on the TV programme, Dial Your President.

He told them to be prepared for early polls to face fresh challenges posed both by extremists and the Congress-led Opposition. “It is time for you to act and galvanise support from all sections of society,” he said.

Naidu also told party workers to complete scrutiny of the electoral rolls. A decision and “other actions” will follow soon, he said, citing a discussion on polls at the last cabinet meeting.

The Congress, however, appeared irked by the Desam’s “delay tactics” and called off its bus yatra in the state’s coastal districts.

The party’s Mahboobnagar legislator, G. Chinna Reddy, said the Desam was delaying a decision for fear of extremist threat. Most ruling party legislators, he said, were touring their constituencies under police escort in Karimnagar and Nizamabad districts. “The police also advise them on the routes they should take to avoid unnecessary risk,” he said.

The change in plans followed yesterday’s announcement by the Congress’ Telengana legislators, who have formed the Telengana Congress Forum, that they would quit the party and tie up with the Telengana Rashtra Samiti. “The Congress leaders are delaying a decision on Telengana due to compulsions of certain groups in the PCC opposing our demand for a separate PCC and a state,” Reddy said.

The forum members warned the party leadership that “though we are Congressmen, we will oppose and also place obstacles in the way of the yatra” if it entered the Telengana districts.

Another reason cited for the cancellation was “the rift in the Congress groups in Krishna and Guntur districts… as the high command wanted to avert a public display of groupism in the party ahead of (likely) early polls”, a senior leader from Krishna district said.

Naidu’s statement to party workers caught many senior leaders napping. Yesterday’s emergency cabinet meeting had fanned rumours that he was apprehensive of holding polls after the sympathy wave had given way to a surge in anti-incumbency feelings.

Today, however, Naidu harped on the state’s growth rate and improved socio-economic conditions with the execution of a Rs 35,000-crore World Bank programme for power, economic reconstruction and infrastructure development.

Political stability for the last eight years was the key to success, he told the workers. “People look at the TDP for continuation of political stability and peace to promote industry and education in the state.” He urged them to revive contacts with all self-help groups for women and promote awareness of the state’s programmes for them.

The chief minister also urged the people to interact with extremists and bring them back to the mainstream. “Let the extremists face us politically rather than attack and kill political activists at random.”

Extremist groups, he said, had killed 330 political leaders, including 140 of the Desam’s elected representatives, in the last 10 years.

He visited his Kalwakurthi legislator, Jaipal Yadav, at a local hospital. Extremists had attacked him in Mahboobnagar two days ago.

The chief minister took the opportunity to admonish many leaders for not participating in the recently launched programme, “Inti Inti TDP (TDP at your doorsteps)”. He urged them to be wary of the Congress’ designs to whip up emotions among communities and regions.

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