Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who turned 68 on Friday, began his day-long fast to protest what he calls the injustice being meted out to the state by the Central government.
Naidu launched the 'Dharma Porata Deeksha' hunger strike at Indira Gandhi Municipal Stadium in Vijayawada. The fast, which began at 7 am, will conclude at 7 pm.
State ministers Kala Venkat Rao, D Umamaheswara Rao, Nara Lokesh, Kollu Ravindra, MPs and state legislators and leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) joined him in the fast at the massive programme organised by the state government.
Naidu garlanded statues of Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar, Jyotirao Phule and N T Rama Rao before reaching the stadium.
The TDP chief was blessed by Hindu, Muslim and Christian religious leaders before he began the fast. Prominent freedom fighters also called on Naidu to extend their support.
Information and Public Relations Minister K Srinivasulu, speaking to the media, â€śNaidu is fighting for the state without fearing for his life even though hundreds of conspiracies hatched against him. It is only Chandrababu Naidu' who made his 68th birthday into a day of struggle. His fight is on behalf of 5 crore Andhraitesâ€ť he said.
TDP MLA and actor Balakrishna also lashed out at the BJP and said, â€śWe allied with the BJP as we thought that they would assist us in overcoming problems due to the bifurcation. Now. all possible ways of negotiation are over. Now, the war will beginâ€ť.
Naidu's fast is to demand the Centre to accord Special Category Status to the state and fulfil all commitments made at the time of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to carve out Telangana state in 2014.
Last month, the TDP pulled out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to protest its refusal to give special status to the state. Naidu alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone back on the promises he made in 2014 elections.
Naidu has appealed to people to observe the fast against the Central government's attitude, instead of celebrating his birthday.
TDP leaders say this is the first time in the country's history that Chief Minister of a state is observing fast on his birthday.
Expressing solidarity with the Chief Minister, leaders and workers of TDP and various organisations are observing the fast across the state. State ministers were also on hunger strike in their respective districts.
With IANS inputs