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Naidu, TDP leaders refuse to leave Maharashtra

Hyderabad: Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu and his party colleagues, who were arrested for trying to enter Maharashtra to visit the disputed Babli project, continued to be in police custody on Saturday in Nanded district.

The police will produce them before a magistrate but the leaders have decided not to seek bail.

Seventy-five TDP leaders, including MPs, state legislators and former ministers, spent Friday night at the Dharmabad Industrial Training Institute (ITI) and refused to leave Maharashtra till they were allowed to inspect the Babli dam on the Godavari river. They alleged that Maharashtra was building the project ignoring the directions of the Supreme Court and the Central Water Commission.

TDP leaders in Hyderabad said Naidu and others slept on mats in the ITI. Naidu has decided to lodge a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission against the Maharashtra government, they said.

The TDP leaders were arrested on the Andhra-Maharashtra border on Friday afternoon when they tried to enter Maharashtra to inspect Babli. The former Andhra Pradesh chief minister argued that he had the democratic right to visit any place in the country.

Maharashtra had mobilised police force and imposed prohibitory orders around Babli to foil the march by the TDP leaders. The opposition party alleged that their leaders were arrested by the Maharashtra Police with deceit. They were taken in a police vehicle with the promise that they would be shown the project but the vehicle was diverted to the Dharmabad ITI.

Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil on Friday evening spoke to Naidu over phone and advised him to return to Andhra Pradesh but the latter refused to leave unless he and other leaders were allowed to visit Babli and other projects.

Meanwhile, TDP continued protests in different parts of the state against Naidu’s arrest. The party has called for staging protests outside the offices of district collectors on Saturday.

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