Friday, 15 April 2005

Babu wraps NTR Bhavan in cloak of secrecy

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, April 15: Former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu's transparency mantra has vanished into thin air as NTR Bhavan is cloaked in secrecy, both for political and security reasons.
The freely accessible Telugu Desam State headquarters at Banjara Hills has turned into a virtual fortress with Chandrababu Naidu deciding to keep away mediapersons from all TD meetings which he presides. After losing power in May last year, the TD supremo has limited the presence of mediapersons at NTR Bhavan to just press conferences and social get-togethers. There are no more "off the record" briefings at the party office.
Added to the "political decision" of the TD State leadership is the "security consideration" by the State police, who have fortified the entire NTR Bhavan with high-rise walls and electric fence with armed guards on vigil round the clock. NTR Bhavan has become virtually inaccessible to the common man after the failure of peace talks between the State government and Maoists in January. A new entrance is being constructed to screen every visitor to the office.
Earlier, Chandrababu Naidu, who chanted the mantra of transparency and "open politics" for 10 years, used to invite journalists to each and every political meeting at NTR Bhavan. He solicited the presence of media even at Telugu Desam Parliamentary Party, Telugu Desam Legislature Party and TD State executive meetings. The only event wherein journalists were not allowed then was the politburo meeting.
The TD was the only political party in the country to hold important party meetings in the presence of journalists. Chandrababu Naidu even ensured that all these programmes were telecast live. And there were instances of some TV channels stationing their OB Vans at TD State office for weeks together. The TD leadership has given a go-by to "official briefings" of important party meetings.
When Chandrababu Naidu was in power, cops from the State Intelligence Department and Central Intelligence Bureau used to move freely on the premises of the TD headquarters, partaking lunch and dinner at the party office canteen. Now they have been curtly told not to enter into the building.
The sudden change in the political thinking of the TD supremo within a few months of losing power has taken even Telugu Desam leaders by surprise. According to NTR Bhavan sources, now that the TD is no longer in power Chandrababu Naidu wants to keep his party's strategy and political decisions secret so that he could take on the ruling Congress more effectively.

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