Two TDP ministers resign from Modi govt over Andhra special status issue

Telugu Desam Party ministers Ashok Gajapathi Raju and YS Chowdary went to the PM’s residence to submit their resignation letters.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2018 07:09 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
TDP ministers quit,Ashok Gajapathi Raju,YS Chowdary
The two TDP ministers who have resigned from the Modi government are civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju (right) and minister of state for science and technology YS Chowdary.

Following up on Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s announcement the previous day, the two Telugu Desam Party (TDP) ministers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government resigned on Thursday.

Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and minister of state for science YS Chowdary’s resignations, to protest the denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, came soon after Prime Minister Narendra Narendra Modi spoke to Naidu on the phone.

In a reciprocal measure, the two BJP ministers in the Andhra cabinet too put in their papers and quit the state government.

The TDP has, however, not pulled out of the NDA and the party’s pull-out has no impact on the majority of the government in the house. The exit was cordial with the ministers, in their statements, appreciating the PM and his support.

The announcement sparked a range of political reactions in Delhi. The BJP officially emphasised that it had done its best to convince the TDP, and suggested that this had in fact opened the doors for the party’s growth in Andhra Pradesh. An energised opposition, however, claimed this was the beginning of the unravelling of the NDA.

After finance minister Arun Jaitley made it clear that ‘special status,’ which would have entitled Andhra Pradesh to special central grants, was not feasible, Naidu announced the decision to pull out the two TDP ministers from the government late on Wednesday night.

The TDP has been demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh since the creation of Telangana state in 2014 deprived it of revenue generated from industries located in and around Hyderabad. The city is to be transferred exclusively to Telangana, carved out from Andhra Pradesh, in 2024 after serving for 10 years as their joint capital.

Modi travelled to Rajasthan on Thursday to launch the National Nutrition Mission, and the TDP ministers waited for his return to submit their resignations. The PM was back in the Capital by evening, had the phone conversation with Naidu.

Modi called the Andhra chief minister to discuss the differences. People in the chief minister’s office familiar with the contents of the conversation said Modi had tried to pacify Naidu and asked him to re-think his decision to pull out of the NDA government.

“Naidu told him that he had to take a decision in accordance with the people’s sentiments attached to the special category status, and that if he still continued in the NDA, it would be politically disastrous for his party,” one person said on condition of anonymity.

The two TDP ministers, who drove to his Lok Kalyan Marg residence at 6 pm to submitted their resignations, refused to speculate about what transpired in the telephone call. “That is within leaders and they will interact. We don’t interpret what leaders have spoken amongst themselves. We will not,” Raju said..

Both expressed gratitude to the prime minister for his support during their stint. “We wanted to call on the prime minister as a courtesy as we have worked together,” Raju said. He told reporters that the TDP had decided to come out of the government, but remains part of the ruling NDA at the moment.

“There is nothing new in it, no secret either,” Raju said at a press conference after resigning from the cabinet. “We are continuing as part of the NDA and the problems are well known.”

Raju added that the PM was ‘well aware of the issues’. “We hope that a solution will come. It was a cordial atmosphere.” He said the prime minister felt the development was unfortunate.

Senior leaders of the BJP said the TDP’s exit did not come as a surprise. “We realised two months ago that TDP was going a different way,” said Andhra BJP chief and MP K Hari Babu. The party believes it was pressure from the TDP’s local rival, the YSR Congress, and its aggressive push for ‘special status’ that promoted Naidu to take the decision.

But the BJP senses an opportunity in the situation. Babu said, “We have a bigger territory to gain. The BJP will attempt to improve its position.”

Even so, the party is well aware that a key challenge would be to counter the perception that it is against or had blocked the special status for the state.

The opposition is energised and believes the TDP’s decision is a big blow to the NDA, in terms of optics and perception, even if not in terms of numbers.

“A parochial autocratic alliance led by the Prime Minister could never accept the divergence of opinion or plurality which is the essence of India’s foundational values,” Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said. “The splintering of the NDA is only a reflection of that philosophy of the Prime Minister and the BJP. It doesn’t start or end here,” he said.

Another opposition leader said this would further embolden their stance in Parliament against the government. “They were up after the Tripura win. We are up after the TDP exit,” the leader of a key opposition party in the Lok Sabha said on condition of anonymity.

First Published: Mar 08, 2018 18:39 IST