YSR Congress chief Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy was on Thursday injured in a knife attack by a chef employed at a restaurant allegedly owned by a ruling Telugu Desam Party leader at the Visakhapatnam airport, police said.
Reddy, the Leader of the Opposition in Andhra Pradesh assembly, escaped with a “deep” cut on his left shoulder.
J Srinivasa Rao, the assailant, approached Reddy when he was leaving the VIP lounge to board a flight to Hyderabad and requested for a ‘selfie’.
As an unsuspecting Reddy posed for the picture, the man pulled out a small knife generally used in cockfights and plunged it into his left shoulder.
Rao was overpowered by the Central Industrial Security Force personnel guarding the airport and handed over to the state police which is now questioning him.
“To everyone worried about my safety, Id like to inform you that I am safe. Gods grace and the love, concern and blessings of the people of Andhra Pradesh will protect me.
“Such cowardice will not dissuade me but only strengthen my resolve to work for the people of my state,” Reddy tweeted upon his arrival in Hyderabad.
The opposition leader checked into a private hospital in Hyderabad where doctors attending on him said he received a lacerated injury on his shoulder and had to undergo a surgical procedure.
“It is a lacerated wound caused by stabbing on the left shoulder. He has been operated and is doing fine. He is under observation,” the medical officer said.
The YSRC claimed in a statement that the cafeteria where the assailant was employed was owned by ruling Telugu Desam Party leader Harshavardhan, who was aspiring to contest the next assembly election from the district.
Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who also heads the TDP, targeted the Centre over the incident.
“The airport is under the Government of India’s control. If something happened outside, the state government would have been responsible, but since it happened inside whose responsibility is it,” he asked.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu condemned the “cowardly attack” on Reddy and asked all agencies concerned to probe the matter thoroughly.
In a tweet from his personal handle, Prabhu said he was shocked by the attack on Reddy and that the guilty would be punished.
“Asked all agencies to investigate matter thoroughly, including @CISFHQrs. Asked secretary civil aviation to fix responsibility. I strongly condemn this cowardly attack, we will punish the guilty. Investigations are underway, started immediately,” the minister said.
“The unfortunate attack by an authorised employee of a licensed airport restaurant took place before the security hold area of Vizag airport, and the same will be investigated expeditiously,” the civil aviation ministry said in a tweet.
The state’s DGP R P Thakur maintained the attack was made apparently for the sake of publicity.
The TDP, which the YSRC alleged was behind the “attempt to murder” Jagan, dubbed the assault as an “act of cowardice”, while other opposition parties, including the Congress, Jana Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party condemned it.
Thakur said the attacker, a college dropout from East Godavari district, was working as a chef at Fusion Restaurant at the airport for the last one year.
“A 9-10 page letter has been recovered from his pocket and the CISF handed it over to us. We are verifying who wrote the letter and what it contained,” the DGP said, adding “apparently the attack was for the sake of some publicity”.
“Preliminary information is that the attacker is claiming to be a Jagan fan. We will definitely unearth the reason behind the attack, Thakur told reporters in Amaravati.
Thakur later said in a press release that a special investigation team headed by an assistant commissioner of police has been constituted to probe the case.
“What is the hurry for the DGP to come out with such ludicrous statement?” the YSRC’s statement said, retorting sharply to the DGP’s claim that the attacker was a Reddy fan and that the assault stemmed from his desire for publicity.