Naidu was baffled by PM Modi’s scathing rebuttal of him and non-cooperation from prospective third front allies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aggressive line on the no-trust motion moved by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Lok Sabha on Friday baffled its leadership. TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was taken aback by the frontal attack by the PM on the issue of special category status to the state.
Naidu who marshalled his MPs to launch a scathing attack against the NDA government through the no-confidence motion for the last two days closely monitored the debate in the Lok Sabha on Friday. He sat before a giant TV screen at his office in Amaravati since morning and sent notes to his MPs in the parliament throughout the day.
Initial indications Naidu received were that the PM was likely to ignore the special category issue raised by the TDP and might only attack the Congress in order to launch the theme of his campaign for the general election due next year. Naidu even prepared a note suggesting to his MPs that they should ridicule the PM that he ran away from the issues raised by them.
However, PM Modi directly mentioned the special category demand in the latter part of his speech and pointed to Naidu’s inconsistent approach on the issue for the last two years. The PM said: “I admit that we have promised to give special status to Andhra as the bifurcation of the combined state was flawed. I remember my speeches too during the 2014 election to this effect”.
“But we were restrained by the report of the 14th Finance Commission to give special status to Andhra. However, in November-December 2016, we prepared a special package which was more than the benefits of the special status to Andhra Pradesh and the same was accepted and lauded by Chandrababu Naidu. He even thanked the Finance Minister for the special economic package,” said the PM.
“But he (Naidu) took a U-turn on this and again raised the demand basically due to domestic compulsions of his state. When TDP left the NDA three months ago, I called Chandrababu Naidu and told him that he had fallen into the trap of YSR Congress (which has been demanding the special status), so the battle is there in Andhra, and nothing to do with us (Centre),” said the PM.
PM Modi’s blunt and aggressive words on CM Naidu’s demand for special category issue took the latter by shock, according to senior party leaders who were present with the CM Friday night. “We didn’t imagine that the PM would be so blunt and pointed in his attack against us,” said a TDP MLA from Krishna district while talking to this newspaper over the phone.
Naidu who wanted to corner the PM and the BJP leadership on the issue of special status to Andhra had been planning a no confidence motion against the NDA government ever since he left it this April. Entire Budget session of the Parliament was washed out due to the din created by TDP MPs in both the Houses and the party expected the same to be repeated in the monsoon session that commenced on 18 July.
Contrary to that, the BJP leadership not only accepted the no-confidence motion challenge on the very first day of the session and fixed a date for the debate on 20 July and launched a clever frontal attack on its former ally. Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s comments that “Naidu is still our friend” and Modi’s no-holds barred attack against the CM confused the TDP leadership.
Opposition YSR Congress leader Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy quickly grabbed the opportunity and told a media conference at Kakinada on Saturday that the comments of both the HM and the PM reflected the double standards of CM Naidu. “Rajnath Singh says Naidu is still their friend, and the PM had rightly exposed the changing stands of the CM,” said Jagan.
The BJP leaders in Andhra are jubilant with the pro-active line taken by the PM in the Lok Sabha on the special status issue. “We are happy that the PM had set the tone for our election campaign and we will follow the same,” said BJP’s Andhra unit president Kanna Lakshminarayana. The BJP would tell the people of AP that the Centre had done much more than what a special status could give them.
Politically, too, Naidu hasn’t gained much through the no-confidence motion on Friday. He wanted to emerge a key player in national politics through this motion though he knew well that it would be defeated at the end of the day. The refusal of Shiv Sena to back the motion and antagonistic stand of TRS, which is ruling neighbouring Telangana, and the snub by AIADMK MPs disappointed Naidu.
Naidu rushed to New Delhi on Saturday morning apparently to undo the damage done by the lukewarm response of these parties to the no-confidence motion. Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu said Naidu landed in New Delhi basically to thank all those who supported the no-confidence motion and mentioned the status issue.
Naidu wanted to give his reply to the PM’s scathing attack against him through a media conference and the same would be circulated among people in the coming days. The CM chalked out a strategy for his MPs to raise the issue in the remaining part of the monsoon session. There is also a view among the CM’s aides that the party might not be able to raise the issue again after the no-trust vote.
Jagan has called for an Anhdra bandh on Tuesday to protest against the PM’s refusal to grant special status to the state. Jagan, who is currently on a Padayatra in East Godavari district, urged people to back the bandh. Jagan also asked Naidu to get his 20 MPs to resign from the Lok Sabha so that the Centre would be forced to give special status to AP. YSR Congress’ five MPs have already resigned.