"The ruling Congress leaders are renaming the building to please Sonia Gandhi," TDP leader in the legislative council D. Veerabhadra Rao told reporters Thursday.The state government Oct 22 issued orders to rename the Telugu Lalitha Kala Thoranam auditorium as Rajiv Gandhi Lalitha Kala Thoranam, after Congress legislator T. Subbarami Reddy offered to renovate the open-air auditorium, and convert it into a closed one with all modern amenities.
But the opposition remains unimpressed."Reddy is a joker," Veerbhadra Rao said. "He is going all out to please Sonia Gandhi to become a central minister."Facing vociferous protests, the state government amended its order, and said it will retain the word 'Telugu' in the name. But opposition legislators don't want the name Rajiv Gandhi at all.
TDP president and leader of opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu wrote to Chief Minister K. Rosaiah to withdraw the order.
Naidu said the government's move would hurt the sentiments of crores of Telugu people. He said that the auditorium was the brain child of former chief minister N.T. Rama Rao, and questioned the need to change the name at all.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and communist parties have also taken strong exception to the government's move.
Senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu warned the government of state-wide protests if it goes ahead with its decision.Communist Party of India's state secretary K. Narayana threatened to uproot the board of the auditorium if its name was changed.
The ruling Congress party, however, defended its decision.
"There is no politics behind the move. Since the auditorium was not named after any leader, we decided to name it after former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi," said R.V. Ramana Murthy, chairman of Andhra Pradesh Cultural Council.
TDP leaders and activists Thursday took out a silent march from the legislative assembly to the auditorium, and staged a sit-in.The open-air Telugu Lalitha Kala Thoranam auditorium, with a seating capacity of nearly 5,000 people, was built in 1986. It comes under the control of the cultural affairs department of the state government.