A private member’s bill seeking special status for residuary Andhra Pradesh, which was introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Congress MP K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, is expected to come up for voting in the monsoon session of Parliament.
It had been expected earlier that the bill would be taken up for discussion on the last day of the budget session that ended on Friday, but the Upper House was adjourned immediately after bidding farewell to 57 retiring MPs. The Congress, which is ahead of the NDA in the numbers’ game in the Rajya Sabha, had issued a whip to its members to be present and vote in favour of the bill, besides mustering the support of UPA allies and some other parties for the same.
The bill assumed significance as there was a possibility that some MPs of the Telugu Desam Party, an ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, would vote in its favour. If the TDP supports the bill and helps its passage in the next session, it will be a major embarrassment for the NDA. Hours after the Upper House was adjourned, Ramachandra Rao and AP Pradesh Congress Committee president N. Raghuveera Reddy claimed moral victory, claiming that the government ran away from discussing the bill fearing defeat. “However, we will not leave this issue and we will insist on passing the bill in RS in the monsoon session,” Raghuveera Reddy told The Sunday Guardian.
The BJP, on the other hand, is coining legal and political options to take on the Congress and other parties that are working to secure a special status for Andhra Pradesh. BJP national secretary in charge of AP Siddharthnath Singh was rushed to Vijayawada to counter Congress and other parties’ claims on the special status row. Singh told the media that the Congress was indulging in doublespeak by supporting the bill as it had not included any special status provision in the AP Bifurcation Act when it was in power at Centre. Moreover, the 14th Finance Commission, a constitutional body, has rejected special status to any state in the country, he pointed out. The BJP national secretary, who had come to AP on a damage control mission, was quick to cite that the NDA government had sanctioned around Rs 7,500 crore in the last two years out of the total commitment of Rs 22,000 crore to be paid in four years to AP towards its revenue deficit. “We may not grant special status for AP, but AP is special to our Prime Minister,” said Singh.
The BJP has also decided to dare the Congress to move a political resolution seeking special status. “The party (Congress), which has issued a whip to its members for a private member’s bill, should have moved a proper bill in the RS for a constitutional amendment so that AP can be given special status,” said Singh.
YSR Congress president Jagan Mohan Reddy dared the TDP to quit the NDA government and joins hands with the opposition forces to fight for AP’s special status. The Left parties too backed the demand.
The opposition is of the view that a special status would entail tax incentives and subsidies for industries to be set up in AP for a period of 10 years, besides securing additional funds for creating infrastructure.
What added heat to the tense atmosphere in AP is the shrillness in the tone of several TDP ministers and senior leaders who took on the BJP for going back on its promise of granting special status to AP.
“The 14h Finance Commission is not sacrosanct, nor is a constitutional amendment that impossible to grant special status to AP,” said TDP MLC and spokesman S. Chandramohan Reddy.
Two senior AP ministers—Prathipati Pulla Rao (agriculture) and Devineni Umamaheswara Rao (irrigation)—too demanded that the NDA government should respect the assurance given to AP.
“If the BJP fails to respect the sentiment of the people of AP on the special status issue, they will have to face consequences,” said Pulla Rao at a media conference in Guntur on Saturday.