17 days since the attack on the YSR Congress Party chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the Andhra Pradesh police put in place a tough, three-tier bandobast as the Opposition leader resumed his Praja Sankalpa Padayatra from Melapuvalasa village in Vizianagaram district on Monday morning.
The heavy security marked by a 50-strong rope party virtually turned Jagan’s padayatra into a high-security zone, making it difficult for commoners, passersby and party sympathisers to reach out for a handshake or a selfie with their leader.
The police issued three types of identity cards to keep a close watch on the leaders, staff and general public who will be in Jagan’s proximity. Red cards are issued to leaders and VIPs accompanying Jagan, as well as former ministers, ex-MLAs and local people’s representatives.
YSR Congress Party activists, who have been following the yatra for a long time, are issued blue cards. The staff attending to the needs of Jagan are issued green ID cards.
There is also continuous aerial surveillance by drone cameras. A few police personnel are also wearing body cameras to record the events taking place around Jagan as his padayatra moves forward. The road that Jagan takes is also being inspected thoroughly by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in advance.
The intense security arrangements have changed the tone and tenor of the padayatra, which, up until now, saw Jagan freely mixing with passersby and the general public, hugging them, and exchanging pleasantries with them in close proximity. While students and youth vie to take selfies with their leader, it is now difficult to do so.
Jagan restarted his padayatra after taking a 17-day break at his Lotus Pond residence in Hyderabad as per the advice of doctors, after he was attacked on October 25 in the lounge at the Visakhapatnam airport with a rooster knife by one J Srinivasa Rao, a hotel waiter. He escaped with an injury in his shoulder.
At that time, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and DGP RP Thakur dismissed the attack as being the work of Jagan’s fan, who wanted to create a sympathy wave to help Jagan win in the state’s Assembly elections in 2019. However, Jagan approached the High Court, seeking an investigation by an agency other than the state police into the attack.
Following the attack, when Jagan was taking rest at his Hyderabad residence, the Telangana government gave him unprecedented security, and even allotted him a bullet-proof vehicle. Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao ordered for tight security to be put in place at Jagan’s residence as well.
As Jagan’s padayatra resumed amid allegations and accusations being traded between members of the YSRCP and the ruling TDP, Jagan’s mother Vijayalakshmi appealed to the people of Andhra to take care of her son. “This is a re-birth for my son. I have placed him in your hands and you should protect him,” she said.
She also demanded that the Andhra government explain why it was frightened at the thought of agreeing for an investigation by a central agency, and found fault with the TDP government for the lack of progress in the investigation of how the miscreants smuggled the knife into a high-security airport lounge.
“We have no faith in the investigation as the DGP and the Chief Minister had set the tune of the exercise by rushing to the press with concocted versions aimed at diluting the case even before the probe began,” she added.
Meanwhile, reacting sharply to Vijayalakshmi’s criticism, Social Welfare Minister Nakka Anand Babu said, “The YSCRP leaders are making baseless allegations. Everybody knows Jagan has suffered a minor injury that requires just an hour’s rest or so to recover. But Jagan has taken rest for 17 days. His mother, Vijayamma, is trying to take political advantage of the knife attack case.”
Home Minister Nimmakayala Chinarajappa also hit out at Jagan, and said that it was the same Andhra police who has given him protection so far.
“The Opposition leader has no moral right to continue his foot march in AP state. He is saying he has no trust in the police here and also in the ruling government. Jagan should do some soul-searching and he seems to have no trust in the people of AP as a whole. Jagan should realise that it is the same AP police who have provided foolproof security for many months prior to knife attack.”