The Congress government in Andhra Pradesh was put in an embarrassing situation when a fire broke out at the century-old Jubilee Hall on Sunday, immediately after the UPA Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee addressed a gathering of MPs and MLAs.
Though there were no casualties in the fire that broke out at the stationery room of the state-owned complex minutes after the dignitaries left the venue, the mishap left the government red-faced.
Mukherjee, who was here as part of a nation-wide tour to mobilise support for his candidature, addressed a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) at Jubilee Hall, located at a stone’s throw distance from the Legislative Assembly and Council buildings. Also present on the occasion was Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, his cabinet colleagues and the party lawmakers.
Minutes after Mukherjee left the venue, the fire broke out and a cloud of smoke billowed out into the sky, causing panic in the area. It took a while for the fire tenders to arrive. The legislators and ministers, along with their supporting staff, were seen rushing out of the building.
“It is very strange that there is no fire station in the vicinity of such an important building. We are lucky that the fire started after Pranabda and other senior leaders left the venue,” Congress MP from Telangana region G Vinod said.
Meanwhile, the chief minister has ordered a probe into the fire accident by senior IAS officer Ajay Mishra, secretary in the General Administration Department.
Earlier, addressing the gathering, Mukherjee said: “I have appealed to all political parties who have not decided to extend their support to me to take a decision in my favour and in favour of UPA. Those who have extended their support to me, I thank them; those who are supporting UPA from outside like SP, BSP, I thank them and those who have extended support to me as presidential nominee, like Shiv Sena, I have thanked them as well.”
A protest by a small group of pro-Telangana activists greeted the presidential candidate outside the Begumpet airport. Raising slogans in support of a separate state of Telangana, the protesters tried to stop his convoy but police foiled their attempt. They wanted Mukherjee to spell out his stand on the demand for carving out separate Telangana state.
Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owasi, whose Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is supporting the UPA choice for the President’s post, also met Mukherjee.