AP CM defends beleaguered Cong MP

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Hyderabad, Feb 25 (UNI) Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy today defended Congress Lok Sabha member U Arunkumar, whose recent remarks allegedly against Constitution architect B R Ambedkar has kicked up a controversy, even as the Opposition CPI, CPI(M) and BJP demanded an unconditional apology from the MP for ''hurting the sentiments'' of Dalits.

Offering to order any inquiry into the incident, the Chief Minister, making a statement in the State Assembly, alleged that the Opposition TDP and a section of the Press supporting it were distorting facts to tarnish the image of the Congress and the MP, who had exposed financial irregularities of a firm owned by a media baron.

The MP and the Party had the highest regard for Dr Ambedkar and would not dream of disrespecting the Constitution architect in any manner, he maintained.

Clarifying on the MP's comments, Dr Reddy said the MP, participating as ex-officio member in the Rajahmundry Municipal Corporation meeting, had told the TDP members that it was their misfortune that in the Constitution written by Dr Ambedkar, the Commissioner was empowered to deliver the civic body's budget.

''I know softspoken Arunkumar personally for over 26 years. He has encouraged inter-caste marriage in his family,'' the Chief Minister said.

Recalling Mr Arunkumar's association with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, he praised the MP for his oratory skills, for promoting value-based politics and for translating the speeches of Mr Gandhi and Ms Sonia Gandhi, the present Congress President.

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