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Naidu back in Hyderabad after a day of high drama

Special Correspondents

Earlier, Maharashtra dropped cases, forced him to board flight

— Photo: Mohammed Yousuf (MORE REPORTS ON PAGE 10)

Hero's welcome:Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu amid jubilant party workers at the Shamshabad International Airport in Hyderabad late on Tuesday night.

HYDERABAD/MUMBAI: At the end of a five-day ordeal in Maharashtra, Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu arrived in Hyderabad late on Tuesday night to a tumultuous reception by his party workers.

The protracted drama, which began with Maharashtra police thwarting the determined attempts of Mr. Naidu and 65 other TDP leaders to visit the site of the controversial Babli irrigation project, concluded after the Ashok Chavan government dropped all cases against them. Police later made the TDP leaders board a flight from Aurangabad.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Naidu and his entourage were taken from Nanded district to Aurangabad on an undisclosed route. However, instead of the Harsul jail in Aurangabad, they were driven to the airport. They staged a dharna for an hour and a half on the runaway before they were put on the chartered flight.

On arrival at the Hyderabad airport after 10 p.m., hundreds of TDP workers accorded a hero's welcome to Mr. Naidu. From there, he travelled in an open jeep before going to a corporate hospital past midnight for a medical check-up.

The party workers' enthusiasm reflected the revitalisation of the party and its emergence from the shadow cast by recent developments such as Congress MP Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy's yatra and the TRS' aggressive posture in the byelection campaign in 12 Assembly constituencies. Besides, Mr. Naidu had to handle divisions within ever since the Telangana issue took centre-stage of State politics since November last.

“We never took up the Babli dispute for political gain, although our timing was criticised. But people will always stand behind us when we launch such struggles and will respond at an appropriate time. We have succeeded in putting in the dock the governments in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and in New Delhi, all of which are Congress-run,” said TDP MLA R. Chandrasekhar Reddy, who was among those released by the Maharashtra police.

Earlier, at the Aurangabad airport, the TDP leaders alleged more ill-treatment by the police; they said the police manhandled them and took away their cellphones and watches, but this was denied by Aurangabad Deputy Commissioner of Police Vasant Pardeshi. Their release was facilitated by a magistrate's order dropping all cases against them on the Maharashtra government's application.

Nanded Additional SP Shahji Umap, however, said a fresh case was being registered against the TDP chief and others for the assault on police personnel while they were shifted from Dharmabad. “But we are not going to arrest him,” he added.

TDP supporters went on the rampage in several parts of Andhra Pradesh alleging that Nanded police lathicharged their MLAs and roughed up Mr. Naidu. They burnt buses at some places and attacked the Congress office in Karimnagar.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has informed Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah that he will receive an all-party delegation from the State at his residence at 5 p.m. on July 26 to hear the concerns on the Babli issue.

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