Sixty-year-old Rayabarapu Gopal of Warangal’s Seetharampur village died of a heart attack on July 20.
According to neighbours, he was a drunkard and had been suffering from heart ailments for a month. But the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) begs to differ.
Gopal, for them, was one of the “many who died of grief caused by TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu’s arrest and ill- treatment in Maharashtra”. The TDP leaders have claimed that more than 25 people in the state have died of “the grief”. According to them, 21 TDP supporters died on July 20. Some died of heart attack, others committed suicide by consuming pesticide or hanging, they claimed.
“We express sympathy to all such families who lost their dear ones for the sake of the TDP. Our party will extend necessary financial assistance to such bereaved families,” TDP politburo member T. Devender Goud said.
The TDP, it appears, is following in the footsteps of Kadapa MP Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who used the same ruse in a bid to shore up his base. After the sudden death of Jaganmohan’s father and former chief minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy, his supporters launched a media campaign saying more than 600 people had died of shock or committed suicide, unable to bear the grief of YSR’s death.
In some places, Jagan followers even paid money to the bereaved families to claim the deaths were indeed out of grief for YSR. The families were allegedly silenced with the promise of ‘financial assistance’ of ‘1 lakh each.
Although the ploy did not help Jagan in his quest for chief ministership, he is trying to wring out some gain from it through the Odarpu Yatra, through which he has been paying compensation to the bereaved families.
In Naidu’s case, sources said, party leaders at the grassroots level pulled out all stops to create sympathy for Naidu by accounting every natural death as a ‘shock death’ during the four days of high drama in Maharashtra.
Just as they had done with Rayabarapu Gopal of Seetharampur, the TDP leaders accounted the death of TDP worker Bachawat Lakshmi, 45, of Garla in Khammam district to their “death-by-grief” list.
Lakshmi had actually suffered a massive heart attack and died while travelling in a train. Also in the list are G. Manmadha Rao, 55, and wife Vijayalakshmi, 48, who committed suicide allegedly due to family problems.
The list interestingly includes even a casualty from YSR’s native Kadapa district, where no suicide or shock death was reported after the former CM’s death.
The TDP claimed T. Malli Naidu, 48, of Gondipalle village there had committed suicide aggrieved by the party leader’s arrest.
Similar “shock deaths” were reported from East Godavari, West Godavari, Guntur, Krishna, Visakhapatnam, Srikakulam and Ranga Reddy districts.
“We knew they were natural deaths. But the district TDP activists requested us to project them as ‘shock deaths’ and promised that the families would get financial assistance from Chandrababu Naidu,” said Y. Madhava Rao, the representative of a vernacular daily in Khammam.