Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to have assured his National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu of his government’s total support to the latter so that they can face next year’s general elections together. Naidu, who heads the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), returned satisfied after meeting the PM in Delhi on 12 January.
If things go well, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will, in his fourth Union budget to be presented to the Lok Sabha on 1 February, announce a special economic assistance package for Andhra Pradesh, to the tune of around Rs 25,000 crore, according to a senior minister who accompanied the Chief Minister to Delhi last week. The minister, who preferred not to be quoted, told this newspaper that details are being worked out.
Naidu had an hour long one-on-one meeting with the PM where both devoted most of their time to financial and administrative issues.
On his return from Delhi, Naidu briefed his ministers and party seniors about his talks with the PM and the assurances he got from the latter. The PM has agreed to four major political demands of Naidu: 1. Budgetary allocation of the special financial package announced to AP last year. 2. Special aid to Amaravati city. 3. Assistance to the Polvaram project. 4. Special assistance for revenue deficit.
After receiving a 17-page memorandum from the CM, the PM has asked the former to meet FM Jaitley so that they can work on the details and budgetary provisions. Naidu promptly called on Jaitley on Monday and held talks with him on the modalities of bailing out two major projects of his government— Polavaram and Amaravati.
Naidu told Jaitley that the NDA combine was facing severe credibility crunch in AP as most of the promises made by the Centre and the state were neglected over the years, due to a paucity of funds.
The CM has sought for hand-holding of AP from the Centre for at least four to five more years, till the state grows at par with other states. The PM is learnt to have promised to consider this.
The PM, at his meeting with Naidu which came after a gap of around 17 months, paid attention to the latter’s presentation on how loss of Hyderabad has affected the revenues of the residuary AP and how Telangana has got a surplus economy due to hefty revenue collections from the capital city. The PM has agreed that AP deserves to be compensated to the loss of Hyderabad, sources said.
Another major demand of Naidu that found support from the PM was that there shall be a budgetary provision for a slew of promises that were made as part of an economic package to an extent of Rs 2.6 lakh crore announced two years ago. Jaitley told Naidu this week that there will be some special provision for AP in the coming Union budget, according to the AP minister.
The FM might permit the state to raise external aid from the World Bank, in the budget. The total funds needed for Amaravati this year would be around Rs 10,000 crore, said officials in the Capital Region Development Authority. The PM has agreed to consider Naidu’s long pending demand to increase the seats of the AP Assembly from the existing 175 to 225, as mentioned in the AP Reorganization Act. Naidu is confident that a bill would be introduced in the coming Budget session of Parliament to this extent.
Naidu told the PM that his government in AP was under increasing pressure from the Opposition especially YSR Congress and Congress that it had failed to secure the benefits that were promised at the time of bifurcation of the combined state four years ago. Unless the Centre fulfils the promises, it would be difficult to win the next elections, Naidu is learnt to have explained to the PM.
Union minister Sujana Chowdary and TDP Rajya Sabha MP C.M. Ramesh were entrusted with the task of following up on the promises made by the PM with the PMO as well as FM Jaitley, sources in TDP told this newspaper. TDP leaders are expecting one more meeting between the PM and the CM, before the end of the Budget session.