Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) president N. Chandrababu Naidu is “deeply pained” over the Centre’s refusal to give special category status to his state as was promised by the then UPA regime during the original AP’s bifurcation two years ago, but he will not pull out of the BJP-led NDA government in the near future. He prefers a staggered fight with the Centre on this issue in the coming months.
Naidu, who was shocked over the government’s statement in the Rajya Sabha Friday that it was not possible to grant special status to Andhra Pradesh in view of Constitutional limits, held a meeting with senior ministers and other leaders in Vijayawada and took stock of the situation and weighed his options.
In the discussions that ran for about 45 minutes, some ministers including AP Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu argued for withdrawal from the NDA government immediately as a mark of protest. Presently, the Telugu Desam Party has two ministers at the Centre, while two BJP ministers are in the TDP-led Cabinet in AP.
Naidu’s brother-in-law, TDP politburo member and former Rajya Sabha member Nandamuri Harikrishna issued a statement calling for the party to quit the Central government as the BJP does not need its support any longer. However, a section of leaders including Union Minister of State for Science and Technology, Sujana Chowdary argued against decision taken in haste.
Some leaders, including Deputy CM K.E. Krishnamoorthy suggested that the TDP could pull out its two Union ministers, Ashok Gajapathi Raju (Civil Aviation) and Chowdary from the Union Council of Ministers, but continue as a part of the NDA for the time being. They recalled that the same strategy was adopted by the DMK when the UPA was in power, on its demands pertaining to Tamil Nadu.
These leaders pointed out that it would be untenable for TDP to keep silent at this stage as opposition YSR Congress leader, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had called for a state bandh on 2 August, to protest the denial of special status to the state. The Congress and the Left parties are likely to support the bandh.
Finally, it was decided that Naidu would convey the party’s protest in strongest words but would take some time to fight with the Centre on the matter. In fact, the TDP was on the same page with the Congress, YSR Congress and other opposition parties during the RS debate in the last few days. Naidu allowed his members in the Upper House to go all out against the NDA government.
Later, addressing a media conference, Naidu expressed his anger at the Centre and lashed out at the claim that it had done a lot for Andhra Pradesh in the last two years. “We are not here to beg. The Centre hasn’t given us anything extra than what it has given to the other states. We were, in fact, given a raw deal on most of the promises,” he said.
On continuing with the NDA government, Naidu was blunt. “We haven’t joined the NDA government when A.B. Vajpayee asked us to do even though we had 29 MPs in the Lok Sabha at the time. Now BJP has a full majority in the LS and we have a full majority in the Assembly, but still we have each other’s ministers as a mark of goodwill and friendship,” he said.
“But what is the use of being in power if we cannot get any of our demands achieved? The Centre promised special status to AP and a Union Cabinet resolution too was passed on 1 March 2014. We should not forget that even BJP backed the promised,” said Naidu.
Naidu hinted that he would not mind parting with the BJP and embrace the Left, by praising CPM leader Sitaram Yechury for his “statesman like approach” during the Rajya Sabha debate. “I fully agree with his suggestion that there should be a committee to solve all the promises made to AP during the bifurcation,” said the Chief Minister.
Naidu claimed that he had visited Delhi 30-40 times in the last 25 months and was ready to go another 30 times to press for the solving of pending demands such as special status, increase in the number of Assembly seats and getting a separate railway zone at Visakhapatnam and a steel factory. “But let me remind you that there will be a limit to our patience too,” he said.