In a brazen show of competitive politics, Andhra Pradesh MPs belonging to Congress and Telugu Desam were Wednesday locked in a scuffle in public view at the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun over ferrying pilgrims back to the state.
The embarrassing altercation between Congress MP Hanumantha Rao and TDP MPs Ramesh Rathod and K Narayana, who nearly exchanged blows, came in the presence of TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu over taking the flood victims back home by air.
Sloganeering by supporters of TDP and Congress only added to the ugly drama of political one-upmanship that unfolded in the airport which for more than a week has been a scene of hectic activities in mobilising succour to the distraught pilgrims.
The argument between the two sides was over who will ferry the victims to Andhra Pradesh as both of them had arranged flights.
Hanumantha Rao claimed that TDP leaders were preventing the flood victims from boarding a flight arranged by the Andhra Pradesh government to Hyderabad.
"There is already a flight arranged by the government which is waiting for the pilgrims. TDP leaders stopped them from boarding the flight saying that they have already arranged another flight to take them to Delhi," he told mediapersons.
Andhra Pradesh Minister for Civil Supplies D Sridhar Babu, who was deputed by Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy to Dehradun to supervise the relief operations, alleged that the TDP is trying to obstruct government’s duty.
Dismissing the Congress MP's claim, Ramesh Rathod, TDP Lok Sabha member from Adilabad, said the ruling party leaders tried to delay the bus carrying flood victims from reaching the airport and boarding the flight arranged by his party.
Naidu, who was present at the scene, termed the incident unfortunate and said it should not have happened and there should not be any competition over such a tragedy.
However, he said they would not stop their "service" until the last pilgrim is sent back safely to his native place.
"The Congress government (in Andhra Pradesh) totally failed to help the pilgrims. They did nothing. They woke up only after we took initiatives like bringing pilgrims out of the flood area and sending them by flight to Hyderabad.
"They are only sabotaging our efforts. We are doing this on humanitarian grounds. We have also arranged medical aid for victims. This is no time for politics," Naidu said.
He also alleged that victims from Andhra Pradesh were being discriminated against in the relief operations.
Alleging that the state government has failed in the rescue and relief operations, Naidu had held a sit-in at the AP Bhavan in Delhi on Sunday night. Accompanied by several party MPs, he went to Dehradun and has also arranged a special flight to bring the victims to Hyderabad.
The ruling Congress has hit back at Naidu saying that the TDP chief was only politicising the issue.
"Naidu did not attend the recent assembly session. He was in America. He is doing all this to escape the blame," Andhra Pradesh Revenue Minister N Raghuveera Reddy had alleged two days ago.
Image: A video grab of the incident