New Delhi: Notwithstanding demands by various parties, including ruling NDA ally TDP, the government on Friday remained non-committal on granting special category status to Andhra Pradesh but promised in Rajya Sabha to "hand hold" the revenue-deficit state to enable it to progress on its own.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley assured the House that the the government is committed to keeping all its promises and will fulfil all its responsibilities as far as hand holding Andhra Pradesh was concerned.
Jaitley was responding to a discussion on the 'Status of implementation of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 and government assurances' during which TDP and several other parties pressed for grant of special category status to the state in the wake of carving out of Telangana state two years back.
He said the special status promise was not in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 but was made by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the floor of the House and the government is now seeing what has to be done.
However, he added, "For some period, Andhra Pradesh needs hand holding. The Centre will fulfill all the responsibilities it has towards hand holding Andhra to (help it) reach a level where it can be on its own."
Much to the surprise of the House, TDP leader and Minister Y S Chowdary chipped in during Jaitley's reply to seek a resolution by the House for time-bound implementation of the promises made by the previous central government.
This prompted Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to quip that it is "very unusual" to see intervention of a Minister when another Minister is replying to a discussion.
Interestingly, Chowdary held both BJP and Congress "equally responsible" for the "half baked, unscientific and undemocratic bill" which led to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP member reminded the House that both Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu had demanded special status for Andhra Pradesh to be extended to 10 years as against the five years promised by Manmohan Singh. He also praised the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for opposing the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 1970s, saying that it would not be good.
The Finance Minister appeared to be explaining the difficulty in granting the special status while noting that special status means that 90 per cent of the expenditure of schemes will be borne by the Centre as against 60 per cent for normal states.
The Union of India should not be left financially vulnerable, he said while contending that the country's economy has been "adversely" affected by global prices, two years of drought, the 7th Pay Commission and OROP among other factors.
Explaining the division of federal revenues, Jaitley pointed out that 42 per cent of central revenues go to the states and the Centre is left with only 58 per cent to take care of defence of the country, payment of salaries, running the government, running central schemes in states among others.
"The size of the cake is limited, the size of the pie is limited," Jaitley said.
He said that under the new Finance Commission architecture, the divided state of Andhra Pradesh will get over Rs 2.06 lakh crore for the period 2015-20 as against Rs 64,575.30 crore that it would have otherwise got....