TDP-BJP ties on the rocks over special status for Andhra Pradesh
The Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh continues to remain elusive and this is widening the chasm between the Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). The Centre is time and again giving pinpricks to the Andhra Pradesh government that are turning out to be an embarrassment to Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.
In the latest such instance, Union Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha, in a written response to a question raised by Telugu Desam MP Avanthi Srinivas in the Lok Sabha, categorically stated on Wednesday that the Centre could not grant Special Category Status (SCS) to the state.
He also asserted that the Centre would also not compensate the deficit in the state's budget. The minister said that there was no mention in the AP Reorganisation Act 2014 that the state would be accorded Special Category Status.
Last week, the Centre, almost slammed the door on the face of the TDP when Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai P Chaudhary announced in Rajya Sabha that Andhra Pradesh did not require any special status as the Centre was fulfilling all its promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act 2014. The NITI Ayog was working on a special financial package and a report on that was expected soon.
What does Special Category Status mean?
Special Category Status makes a state eligible to secure all centrally sponsored schemes on a '90% as grant and 10% as loan' basis. In the absence of SCS, it gets 70% as loan and 30% as grant. Andhra Pradesh could have benefitted to an extent of Rs 4,000 crore a year, if it was given SCS.
Naidu, who has been hoping against the hope that the Centre would accord SCS to the state, has been feeling frustrated of late. And he is venting out his ire against the Centre's indifference.
Taking cue from Naidu, other TDP leaders are vying with one another in pouring scorn against the BJP and the Centre. Besides the SCS, their demands include creation of a railway zone in Visakhapatnam and shouldering the burden of deficit in the Andhra Pradesh's budget.
The manner in which the minister, Haribhai Chaudhary, listed out the funds sactioned for the new state capital Amaravati and 7 backward districts in the truncated State of Andhra Pradesh irked the TDP.
A few months ago, BJP president Amit Shah rubbed the TDP the wrong way at a public meeting in Rajamahendravaram (erstwhile Rajahmundry) by listing out all the central schemes given to states.
Terming Chaudhary's announcement as "inappropriate," Chandrababu Naidu said that the Centre should extend financial support to Andhra Pradesh until it coped with all its problems.
Of late, Naidu is using every possible platform to air his demands and often he is unequivocally critical of his ally. Several of his Cabinet colleagues too pounced on the BJP holding it, along with the Congress, responsible for the "injustice meted out to Andhra Pradesh during its bifurcation".
On another occasion, Naidu recalled the promises of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the demands made by Arun Jaitley and M Venkaiah Naidu on SCS for Andhra Pradesh. Apparently, the Centre has released only Rs. 2,500 crore to compensate for a deficit of Rs. 16,000 crore in the budget of the truncated State.
However, Minister of State for Science and Technology YS Chowdary, who belongs to the TDP, exuded confidence that the SCS could be achieved. When reporters confronted him if the TDP would quit the Union Cabinet to mount pressure on the Centre, he retorted asking whether such resignations could resolve the imbroglio.
Against this background, Leader of the Opposition in Andhra Pradesh, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, held Naidu responsible for the Centre's indifference on SCS.
Congress Rajya Sabha member KVP Ramachandra Rao, a close confidante of the late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, raised the SCS issue through a Private Member Bill last week in the Upper House and alleged that the BJP had betrayed the state.
Jagan had recently shown a collage of video clips in which Chandrababu Naidu had contradicted himself on SCS. In the clips, Naidu can be seen demanding SCS on 4 occasions but on one occasion he says that it wasn't the panacea for the state's problems.
Jagan also called on leaders of different political parties in New Delhi and distributed a book titled "Emperor of Corruption" against Chandrababu Naidu. This is seen as tit for tat by Jagan, for the TDP had published a book called "Rajah of Corruption" against YS Rajasekhara Reddy's regime.
The TDP is sore with the BJP also because of reports that the BJP was inching closer to the YSR Congress. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave a patient hearing to Jagan when he came to showcase Naidu's failures.
Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, TDP MLC Y Rajendraprasad, and MLA Bonda Umamaheswara Rao criticised the ministers for giving an appointment to Jagan.
The TDP also feels that the BJP is trying to expand its base in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP, on the other hand, is of the opinion that the TDP was taking credit for centrally-sponsored schemes .
Congress MP from Andhra Pradesh and one of the main architects of the AP Bifurcation Act, Jairam Ramesh, also accused the BJP of betraying Andhra Pradesh. He said that the Centre has caused huge losses to at least 11 states by dumping the SCS idea.
Edited by Aditya Menon