After BJP promises special status to Puducherry, demands rise for Andhra Pradesh
The demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh is back to the fore again soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in its election manifesto for Puducherry released by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitaraman on March 27, promised special status to the Union territory.
The demand for a special status for Andhra Pradesh has been raised by all major political parties in the state since the bifurcation of combined Andhra Pradesh in 2014 - something rejected by the BJP government at the Centre several times.
The BJP said it would accord ‘Special Union Territory’ status to Puducherry to increase devolution of funds from 25 per cent to 40 per cent as was done in the case of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure development.
The party also promised to revise cost-sharing of projects under centrally sponsored schemes in the ratio of 70 per cent by the central government and 30 per cent by the UT government in place of the current 30:70 formula.
Telugu Desam Party (TDP) general secretary and MLC Nara Lokesh on Thursday wondered why did Centre declare a special status for Andhra Pradesh a closed chapter while promised the same to Puducherry.
He demanded YSR Congress party president and chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy mount pressure on the Centre for special category status to Andhra Pradesh. “During the assembly elections in 2019, Jagan vowed to bend the necks of the Centre and secure special status to Andhra. But after coming to power, the chief minister has gone totally silent,” Lokesh said.
The special category status to Andhra Pradesh was promised by former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on the floor of Rajya Sabha on February 20, 2014, at the time of passage of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, which sought to carve out Telangana from the combined Andhra Pradesh.
However, the Narendra Modi government rejected the same on the ground that the 14th finance commission had suggested that no state can be granted a special category status because of the increased devolutions from the Centre.
The TDP, which was part of the NDA government, initially accepted the special financial package to the state in lieu of the special category status. But the Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) took it up as a major political issue and the TDP, too, started demanding the same, severing its alliance with the BJP in April 2018.
Though the YSRCP came to power riding on the plank of special category status, it could not insist on the same in the last two years, though it has been mentioning the demand in all its representations to the Centre submitted periodically.
Now, with the BJP promising a special status to Puducherry, the TDP is seeking to turn the tables on the BJP and the YSRCP. “How can the BJP, which denied the special status to Andhra Pradesh, promise the same to Puducherry? How can BJP leaders in AP justify this change in their stand?” asked senior TDP leader and MLA Gorantla Buchaiah Chowdary.
Congress Andhra Pradesh unit president S Sailajanath wondered why the BJP’s state leadership remained silent when their central leadership promised special status to Puducherry. “Has the BJP forgotten the same status to AP? What is the stand of Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan who has allied with the BJP?” he asked.
While YSRC leaders could not be reached for comment, BJP Andhra Pradesh unit president Somu Veerraju said the demand of the TDP leaders for special status to AP was meaningless.
“How can they compare the special category status demand for AP and the special status promise to Puducherry? It is a very small union territory, not a state. The Central government will anyway have to spend money on Puducherry. It is promising more funds. That’s all,” Veerraju said.