Opposition parties came together on Monday at the venue of the day-long fast by Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu in New Delhi in a show of strength against the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led central government.
The fast by Naidu to demand special category status for Andhra Pradesh and for the fulfilment of promises made before the bifurcation of the state in 2014 comes just two days ahead of an event being organized in Delhi by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that is expected to be attended by leaders of opposition parties, including Naidu and West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee,
These are part of a string of events where the opposition parties are putting up a united front ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and come less than a month after a rally in Bengal organized by TMC that was attended by more than 20 leaders of opposition parties.
Naidu on Monday said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been resorting to suppressive tactics as the state government had been demanding special category status. Leaders at the central level should protect the federal structure and safeguard the interests of state governments, he said.
“If the rulers failed to respect the sentiments of people, they will teach a lesson to the BJP. Telugu people are known for their self respect. If the central government under estimates the self respect of people they will teach a lesson in next elections," Naidu said. “In this crisis situation, so many opposition parties coming together have given us confidence."
Opposition party leaders, including Congress president Rahul Gandhi, former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H.D. Deve Gowda, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh, Trinamool chief spokesperson Derek O’Brien, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, senior opposition leader Sharad Yadav, Delhi chief minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal, Dravida Munnetra Kazahgam (DMK) leader T. Siva joined the protest.
Interestingly, the event saw representation from NDA ally Shiv Sena, rebel Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shatrughan Sinha and former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang, who quit the BJP last month.
“I stand with the people of Andhra Pradesh. The Prime Minister has no credibility left. He did not fulfil the commitment made to the people of Andhra Pradesh. He lies wherever he goes," Gandhi said.
After the day-long fast, a delegation of TDP leaders will submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday. The TDP in March last year walked out of an alliance with NDA over the non-fulfilment of their demand for special status category for Andhra Pradesh.
Opposition leaders alleged that the centre’s actions were a threat to democracy and raised questions on the federal structure of the country.
Alleging that PM Modi treats states led by opposition parties differently, Kejriwal said “it is like he is the Prime Minister of Pakistan" .
“There is only one slogan in the country: Remove Modi and save the country. This is not a fight for one party but to save the Constitution, federalism. The expiry date for the BJP has come. Opposition parties, including the Trinamool, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, DMK, AAP, and the Nationalist Congress Party are all together in Parliament and in their fight to defeat the BJP," TMC leader O’Brien said.