Two Union ministers from the Telugu Desam Party, P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju (Civil Aviation) and Y.S. Sujana Chowdary (MoS for Science and Technology), who submitted their resignations on Thursday evening, did so half heartedly as they were not fully convinced about the utility of the exercise, say sources in their party. Though they officially stood by the decision of their party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu to make them resign from the Union Council of Ministers, the two senior leaders were feeling embarrassed while justifying their act to the Prime Minister who met them at his 7, Lok Kalyan Marg residence at 6 pm on Thursday, claimed sources close to them.
Ashok Gajapathi Raju, 67, represents the Vizianagaram Lok Sabha seat in north coastal Andhra Pradesh, while Sujana Chowdary is a Rajya Sabha member. Raju is a moderate among the TDP MPs and was one of the party seniors who believed that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government at the Centre had done its best for Andhra Pradesh since 2014. Raju, according to sources close to him, had argued with the party leaders that Central government was constrained by the fact that the 14th Finance Commission had done away with the practice of granting “special category” status to any state since July 2014.
When he was explaining to his party colleagues at a meeting of TDP MPs in the presence of Naidu in Amaravati last month that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was open to extending additional funds to AP as per the norms, another TDP MP, film actor Murali Mohan remarked that people hated the way the ministers from the TDP were hanging on to power at the Centre.
Raju immediately retorted that he was ready to submit his papers to the PM the moment Naidu directed him to do so. An ex-officer close to the former Civil Aviation Minister told this newspaper that Raju was pained at the comments of the CM on another occasion that the state was not deriving any benefits by having two Union ministers at the Centre.
Raju was not available on phone on Wednesday when the CM called him to inform him about the party’s decision to quit the Union Council of Ministers. But within 20 minutes, Raju called back Naidu and told him that he was ready to quit his post, if it did any good to the state. This, according to his aides, was cited as his doubts over the efficacy of his resignation.
Even Chowdary too was not sure of the utility of the move. The 56-year-old businessman-turned-politician is a close confidant of Naidu. Chowdary used to carry the messages of the CM to the PM and other Central ministers and worked on behalf of the TDP in Delhi.
Sources close to him told this newspaper that Chowdary was the man who brokered a special economic package with FM Jaitley in September 2016 and claimed that the deal was better than the special status promised by the then UPA-2 in March 2014. Right from the beginning, Chowdary was for closer ties with the BJP and was seen as a strong supporter of PM Modi.
Not surprisingly, these two ministers were apologetic when they met the PM to put in their papers on 8 March evening and merely said that they were carrying out the party leadership’s decision, which was prompted by the popular sentiment back home in Andhra. They, in their resignation letters, showered praises on the PM for his cooperation.
The two former ministers were sullen-faced after tendering their resignations and claimed that Andhra had benefited a lot from the Centre in the last three years. They couldn’t strongly defend the decision to quit the NDA government. This was pointed out by senior YSR Congress leader Botsa Satyanarayana, who said that the two ministers seemed to be disagreeing with the party’s decision to quit the Central government.