When after the presentation of the Union Budget early last month, the Telugu Desam (TD) expressed its deep disappointment that Andhra Pradesh’s demands had been ignored, BJP president Amit Shah urged TD supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu not to take any precipitate decision. Mr Shah had held out the assurance that the NDA government at the Centre, in which the TD is a coalition partner, will address the state’s demands.
But the opposite has happened. Finance minister Arun Jaitley publicly announced on Wednesday that a “special status” for Andhra Pradesh was not possible due to the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendations. Andhra Pradesh had lost important revenue sources upon the bifurcation of the state some four years ago.
As for financial support for the state’s new capital Amravati and the Polavaram project, the finance minister suggested that the Centre had already fulfilled most of its obligations and only a relatively small sum was now left to be disbursed.
Responding to the Centre’s stance, Mr Naidu announced that the two ministers of his party in the Union council of ministers would resign. The two BJP ministers in the Andhra Cabinet put in their papers early on Thursday morning. It is clear that the BJP made no efforts to save the situation while the TD ministers at the Centre waited all day for an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which eventually fructified on Thursday evening.
Can the TD-BJP political equation still be salvaged? The TD will doubtless keep in mind that the PM had not taken the CM’s phone call on Wednesday evening. They eventually did speak telephonically on Thursday, but this hasn’t yielded very much yet.
The meaning of this should be clear enough. Why the TD has quit the government but not the NDA yet is an intriguing question. But the way things have gone so far, Mr Naidu’s hand may just be forced.
After the YSR Congress announced that its MPs would resign their seats if special status was not granted to Andhra Pradesh, the TD had little room for manoeuvre left and leaving the Union government was the least that it could have done.
For the last four years, getting additional Central funds under various heads had been pitched sky-high by the TD. The party has now been cornered for playing a maximalist game. Mr Naidu would have also had to factor in the statement of Congress president Rahul Gandhi that if his party came to power in 2019, it would grant “special status” to Andhra Pradesh.
Politics in Andhra Pradesh now appears to be totally fluid. The possibility is open that the two major national parties and the two main state parties will contest the next Lok Sabha poll separately. However, partial electoral arrangements can’t be ruled out.