HYDERABAD: The ‘City of Nizams’ is ground zero of the feud between Andhra’s gadfly Textiles and Handlooms Minister P Shankar Rao and Home Minister P Sabitha Reddy. Last week, he was assaulted while visiting a history sheeter who is embroiled in a legal dispute over land. Rao alleges Sabitha and her son Karthik Reddy are behind the attack. Rao has called her a ‘lady don’ and is demanding her removal from the Kiran Kumar Reddy Cabinet.
He complains that Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and the police aren’t taking the assault on him seriously. The Textiles and Handlooms minister even complained to Governor ESL Narasimhan against Sabitha Reddy demanding her removal. “I have never been attacked in the past even in the face of my bitter feud with Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, Gali Janardhan Reddy, Rahejas and Emaar,” says Rao, regretting that neither the chief minister nor the police were taking the attack on him seriously. “The attack has scared my family members. If anything happens to me, the lady don will be responsible,” he said. The minister feels that Sabitha has her men planted among his staff. He alleges his staff have been bought over by the home minister to cause him trouble and embarrass him.
Rao spares none, including the chief minister. Knowing the power of television, Rao recently invited the electronic media to a review meeting, where his officials were seen sitting on the floor to embarrass Kiran for not furnishing his office the way he wanted.
But for a letter which he wrote to the High Court, Shankar Rao would have been a nobody. In the letter he made allegations against YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and alleged that there was a major scam in Andhra Pradesh Industrial Infrastructure Corporation-Emaar land deals. After the High Court took the communication as petitions, it ordered for a CBI investigation into the charges, thereafter Rao became an instant hero of sorts.
The eccentric Rao makes news for arguments with Congress party workers for not displaying his photographs on the flexi board at party functions. There is a method to his madness: the absurd statements he makes are calculated to get him maximum media attention. Rao calls the state Cabinet a central prison and says he doesn’t attend it since he has no desire to go to the prison. He has challenged the chief minister to sack him but then later said he won’t quit, come what may. He has made allegations against the Andhra Director General of Police, V Dinesh Reddy for not providing him enough security; when its done, he sends the policemen back saying he doesn’t need any protection.
Strangely, an obscure cultural organization has conferred the title ‘Andhra Anna Hazare’. Rao’s detractors suggest he arranged it himself, saying the only similarity between Hazare and Rao is that they are in the news almost everyday; but while the former makes the headlines effortlessly, the latter makes every effort to remain in the media.
The eccentric minister has been able to milk the assault to his advantage. The Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi, a not-for profit institution standing for human rights and dignity of 300 million dalits, tribals and physically challenged people in Hyderabad recently gave him a milk bath following the attack.