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Andhra special status: Chandrababu Naidu says TDP ministers to quit NDA govt today

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu announced that the TDP’s two ministers in the Modi government would resign today.

india Updated: Mar 08, 2018 08:59 IST
TDP,Chandrababu Naidu,NDA government
Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu (centre) addresses the media with cabinet colleagues late on Wednesday night.(Photo by arrangement)

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) said on Wednesday that its ministers would quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre after failing in its bid to secure special category status for Andhra Pradesh.

The decision came amid a persistent deadlock between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the NDA, and the TDP over the issue, with the latter stalling Parliament for the third consecutive day. The Narendra Modi government refused to give in to the demand while making placatory gestures towards its largest ally in southern India.

The TDP announced that its two ministers in the Modi government, aviation minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju and junior minister for science and technology YS Chowdhury, would quit.

Before the announcement, TDP leaders said the BJP had pushed them to a position where taking a “tough stand” was the only option left. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said he will take a call on whether or not to remain in the NDA before the second leg of the budget session ends.

The TDP has 16 members in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. To be sure, the BJP and the NDA have a comfortable majority, and the threatened pullout of TDP from the coalition would pose no crisis for the government.

“As a first step, both our central ministers will resign from the Narendra Modi cabinet on Thursday morning,” Naidu told journalists late in the night. “With regard to alliance with the BJP, we will decide on party-to-party basis later,” he said.

Naidu made the announcement after discussions with his party’s members of Parliament in Delhi through teleconference and his own cabinet ministers in the state secretariat in Amaravati, following an announcement by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi categorically ruling out special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

Naidu said Jaitley’s statement clearly indicated that the NDA government was not interested in resolving the crisis in Andhra Pradesh and coming to the rescue of the state, which, he said, had suffered in the aftermath of its 2014 bifurcation. “When the purpose of our joining the government is not served, we don’t have any option but to come out of it,” he said.

He said that as a courtesy, he called up the Prime Minister’s Office to inform Modi of the decision. “I could not reach the prime minister on phone. Our officials informed the PMO of the decision,” the chief minister said.

Politicians in the TDP familiar with the situation said the party had weighed several options, such as pulling out of the NDA, MPs resigning and ministers quitting the government, and it was decided that the divorce should be a step-by-step process.

TDP leaders said pulling out ministers would send a signal to the BJP and will keep its hopes of special category status for Andhra Pradesh alive. If the demand is not met even after pulling out the ministers, the TDP will consider quitting the ruling coalition.

In New Delhi earlier in the day, the Centre tried to pacify its ally, saying every commitment made during the 2014 bifurcation of the state to create Telangana would be honoured. “We are committed to giving monetary equivalent to special status to Andhra Pradesh,” finance minister Jaitley said.

The minister said the special category status existed when the state was bifurcated, but such treatment is now constitutionally restricted to just the North-Eastern states and the three hilly states after the implementation of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations.

Jaitley said the Centre is committed to funding all of Andhra Pradesh’s programmes to the tune of 90%, which is equivalent to the aid special category states get, through other means like external agencies. The Centre, he added, is even willing to accept the state government’s suggestion of routing such funds through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

At meetings last month, the Centre suggested creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV; a company created for a specific purpose) with the funds from NABARD going into it. Jaitley said the Andhra Pradesh government is yet to come back on the modalities of such a transfer.

The TDP also has to deal with rival YSR Congress Party headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who has announced that his party MPs will resign from Parliament on April 6, the last day of the second leg of the budget session, if the demand for special category status is not met by April 5.

YSR Congress won 8 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and remains TDP’s main rival in Andhra Pradesh, a state which Chandrababu Naidu won from the Congress after 10 years. Jagan Mohan Reddy has made special category status an election issue for the party.

Of the total 175 assembly constituencies, the TDP won 102 seats in 2014. It doesn’t have to depend on the support of the four BJP legislators to maintain a majority, an advantage that Naidu wants to leverage.

Naidu blamed state BJP leaders for launching a counter-attack on his government, rather than taking up the state’s issues with the Centre. “You cannot run away from your responsibility by attacking us. The 130-year-old Congress party was completely routed from AP for hurting the sentiments of the people. If you continue to hurt our sentiments by denying the special category status, which is our right, you will have to meet the same fate,” he said.

The BJP has two ministers in the Naidu government -- health minister Kamineni Srinivas and endowments minister P Manikyala Rao – and they will have to quit if he announces a parting of ways with the NDA. “We are ready to get out of the state cabinet within minutes of getting the directions from the party leadership in Delhi,” Srinivas said.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 22:53 IST