NEW DELHI: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's daylong fast demanding special status for his state on Monday became a rallying point for the opposition, which got together for the second time in less than a month to present a united front against the government.
Bringing state issues on a central stage, a series of opposition leaders made a beeline for Andhra Bhavan, where Naidu staged his protest.
Those who met Naidu included former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, National Conference chairperson Farooq Abdullah, NCP's Majeed Memon, Trinamool Congress' Derek O' Brien, DMK's Tiruchi Siva, Loktantrik Janata Dal's Sharad Yadav, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Samajwadi Party founder Mulayam Singh Yadav.
The last time the parties came together the same way was on January 19, when 22 opposition parties supported West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in her agitation against the CBI's alleged misconduct.
The TDP president is demanding that the Centre fulfil promises made during Andhra Pradesh's bifurcation in 2014 and alleges that Modi was not following 'raj dharma' by denying the state special status.
"The prime minister has stolen from the people from Andhra Pradesh and he has given that money to Anil Ambani. That is the fact of the matter," Gandhi alleged at the protest venue in an apparent reference to the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.
The government and Ambani have rejected Gandhi's allegations of corruption in the deal.
O'Brien recalled Modi's speech in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, on Sunday and said he didn't talk about development or special category status but "started a personal attack".
"Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others. BC is before chaiwala and AD is after dhoka. Modi has lost all his allies and formed a new ally in CBI," he alleged.
The PM in his rally had remarked that Naidu was a senior, but only in losing elections, switching alliances and ditching his father-in-law, N T Rama Rao.
Lashing out at the prime minister, Abdullah said, "Modi has stooped so low. He's making personal attacks against Naidu, who is doing great service for the country. The Jammu-Srinagar highway is closed for six days. They cannot clear the 30km road, but they want to rule the country," he added.
Adding his voice to the chorus of criticism, Memon alleged that the Central government was meting out step-motherly treatment to the state and the BJP was attacking Naidu because he has taken the lead in uniting rival parties against it.
"We will show the BJP its place in the elections. I assure you on behalf of Sharad Pawar ji, Memon stated. SP leader, Yadav said he was not well but had come to show endorse Naidu's stand.
"Naidu is fighting the battle for the poor, the farmers and all those who are oppressed," he added.
Stating that Naidu was fighting for a just cause, DMK leader Siva said the Modi government would be ousted in three months.
"The powers of the state are being encroached upon, the rights of the minorities are being violated."
The TDP had walked out the BJP-led NDA last year protesting the "injustice" done to Andhra Pradesh after its bifurcation.
Loktantrik Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav blamed the Modi government for unemployment, joblessness which he said were a result of demonetization.
The Constitution is being systematically destroyed, added former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang, who gave the BJP its first government in the Northeast 16 years ago.
Congress leaders Anand Sharma, Ahmed Patel and Jairam Ramesh were also at the venue to express their support.
Kejriwal hit out at the prime minister over the alleged mistreatment meted out to states being run by governments of opposition parties.
"One may have voted for any party but after elections, whoever wins and becomes the CM, is the CM of the entire state and not of a particular party. Similarly, when one becomes the PM, then he is the PM of the entire country, not just one party. The way PM Modi treats governments of opposition parties in states, he behaves like he is not the PM of India but PM of Pakistan," Kejriwal said.
Naidu's 'Dharma Porata Deeksha' (a day-long protest for justice), which began at 8 am, is likely to end at around 8 pm.
He will also submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind on February 12.
Naidu paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at Raj Ghat and also to the Ambedkar Statue at the Andhra Pradesh Bhavan before sitting on the hunger strike.