TDP pulls out of NDA govt: 'Unavailable' Modi failed to address Naidu's concerns
The Telugu Desam Party has pulled out of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre in protest against the BJP's "betrayal" on the special status for Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced his party's decision at a press conference late on Wednesday night in the new state capital Amravati.
"Both our ministers will be resigning from the Central government tomorrow," Naidu said. The TDP had two ministers in the Modi government: Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Minister for State for Science and Technology YS Chowdary.
In a press conference that lasted a little less than an hour, Naidu virtually accused the Modi government of insulting him and betraying the people of Andhra Pradesh. The state has been demanding special status ever since it was bifurcated with the formation of Telangana.
"People should know that I spared no effort..I went to Delhi 29 times to meet the PM and Union Ministers. But they ignored our requests. We got nothing but promises," Naidu recalled, adding that he waited patiently for four years but now his patience has run out.
The Centre has been taking one sided decisions and our patience has run out now. When the purpose of joining the union cabinet hasn’t been fulfilled, it’s best to resign now.— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) March 7, 2018
Naidu said that even before pulling his ministers out of the government, he tried to reach out to PM Modi but received no response.
I tried reaching out to the Prime Minister to inform him about our decision. But sadly, he was unavailable.— N Chandrababu Naidu (@ncbn) March 7, 2018
It appears that the last straw for the TDP were the remarks by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday, in which he categorically refused special status for Andhra Pradesh.
"We cannot give special status for Andhra Pradesh. A special package has already been given...Special status was originally meant for North Eastern states whose own resources are inadequate," Jaitley said.
Jaitley further said that "funds cannot be allocated on the basis of sentiments". This comment didn't go down well with the TDP, a party that came up out of the blue in Andhra Pradesh in the 1980s in response to Rajiv Gandhi's alleged insult of the then T Anjaiah.
It is clear that Naidu and his party saw Arun Jaitley's comment as an insult.
"The remarks of finance minister Arun Jaitley seemed to suggest that we were asking for too much money," Naidu said.
"We are only asking for our rights," he added.
Soon after Jaitley's comment, Naidu called a meeting of TDP leaders, MPs, MLAs and MLCs in Amravati to gauge their response. The overwhelming demand from them was that the TDP must snap ties with BJP. So barely a few hours after Jaitley ruled out special status for Andhra Pradesh, Naidu pulled out of the NDA government.
However, the CM says that this is just the "first step". As of now the TDP has just withdrawn ministers from the Union government. It is still part of the NDA and two BJP leaders continue to be part of his council of ministers in Andhra Pradesh.
But if the BJP fails to respond, the TDP will completely snap its alliance.
Relations between the two parties had become rocky over the past one year or so. The main bone of contention was the special status issue. TDP leaders had continuously been accusing the BJP of betraying its promise.
One TDP MP, M Murali Mohan, went to the extent of threatening that "if the Centre continued to ill treat southern states, they may have to form a separate country".
And with the YSRCP chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy and Congress president Rahul Gandhi attacking the Modi government on the special status issue, Naidu had no option but to take on the BJP on this issue.
TDP leaders were also upset with the manner in which Andhra Pradesh BJP leaders had openly been criticising CM Naidu.
The TDP gave an indication of its disapproval by voting against the government's Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha. The move was aimed at "showing the BJP its place" as well as expressing solidarity with a significant chunk of the Muslim community that was opposed to the Bill in its present form.
Another reason for the TDP's withdrawal is said to be the feedback from its rank and file that the party is likely to lose ground because of its association with the BJP.
There is dissatisfaction against Modi in the state, especially over the special status issue and the faulty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax.
According to the ABP News-CSDS survey conducted in January this year, 52% people in Andhra Pradesh are dissatisfied with Modi's performance as PM as against 37% who said they are satisfied. This is a complete turnaround from the survey in May 2017 in which 48% said they were satisfied with Modi and 38% said they are dissatisfied.
With 16 Lok Sabha MPs and 6 Rajya Sabha MPs, TDP is the BJP's biggest ally. If it exits the NDA completely, it would be a huge blow to Modi ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. It must be remembered that the BJP's second largest ally, the Shiv Sena with 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 3 in the Rajya Sabha, has also threatened to pull out of the NDA by the end of this year.
Naidu's move also adds strength to the narrative that BJP is threatening India's federalism, a charge that has been made by CMs like Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal in the past. Telangana CM K Chandrasekhar Rao, too, joined this bandwagon recently and he is learnt to be in touch with Naidu.