Dehradun, June 27: In a shocking display of 'popular concern', legislators of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Congress on Wednesday came to blows over which party should take pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh in Uttarakhand back home. The local people and media watched in bemusement as the two sides rammed into each other at the Jolly Grant Airport here.
While the Congress government of Andhra arranged for a Jet Airways Boeing 737 to take back 168 pilgrims back to Hyderabad, the TDP also made arrangements for Boeing 737 with a seating capacity of 190. The trouble began when the home-bound pilgrims made their way to the TDP's aircraft. The Congress Mps asked the security to take them to its aircraft instead. The TDP MLAs retaliated and representatives of both sides got engaged in a physical fight.
Congress MP Hanumanth Rao and TDP MLA Ramesh Rathod shouted at and shoved each other, following which Rao attacked TDP's Narayana Rao. TV reports also showed Union minister Balram Naik threatening Rao not to come in the way of the pilgrims or he would be cut into pieces.
Andhra minister Uttam Reddy told the TDP leaders that it is the government's duty to rescue the people and the state government had organised a flight for the stranded pilgrims and the other party had no business to be there. The argument went on for more than an hour while the exhausted pilgrims stood on helplessly. The two fighting groups shouted 'zindabad' and 'murdabad' at each other.
The pilgrims opted for the TDP flight, alleging that the government was nowhere to be seen when they were left stranded amid danger. Some even accused that the security personnel stopped them from boarding the TDP aircraft.
TDP chief and former Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu was also present during the brawl. Both sides had a large group of supporters. Naidu alleged that the Uttarakhand police were asked by the Congress state government to stop the bus carrying the pilgrims and not to allow them to board the TDP aircraft.
He said that they went to the rescue of the pilgrims since the government did not do enough. He said instead of encouraging their efforts, the government sabotaged it. MP Rao alleged that about 70 pilgrims were forced into another airport.
Uttam Reddy denied the allegations and said it was the TDP which had started the problem. Finally, the government flight left Dehradun with 168 pilgrims around 5 pm while the TDP aircraft carried out 75 pilgrims around two hours later.
Andhra Pradesh goes to the assembly polls next year.