Chandrababu Naidu in tight spot over meager Central funding
HYDERABAD: Ever the optimist, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu finds himself depressed this time round at the Centre remaining tight-fisted in releasing the funds it promised to Andhra Pradesh.
At stake is not only the money, but also Telugu Desam Party’s credibility among people about persuading its partner to release money at least to build the new capital near Vijayawada. Mr. Naidu can only gnash his teeth or make yet another trip to Delhi seeking funds from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
He can do little else – least of all walking out of the Government or rocking the NDA boat. “I always think positively and have confidence that I can convince the Centre,” Mr. Naidu said in a bid to balance some harsh words he used about the NDA Government.
“At that time (when AP and Telangana came into existence) Congress ditched Andhra Pradesh… NDA leaders, even Narendra Modi-ji, myself, we gave so many assurances to the people of Andhra Pradesh. In turn, they voted for NDA. People are thinking that the Government of India, the NDA, is not doing enough them”, he said.
Jaitley’s snub to AP in Union Budget
What has ruffled Mr. Naidu’s feathers is Mr. Jaitley’s failure to compensate Andhra Pradesh in the Union Budget for the injustices done by the 14th Finance Commission. “We can’t digest it. Our wings have been cut off, how do they expect us to fly.”
The 14th FC granted Rs. 1.69 lakh crore to AP from the divisible pool of Rs. 39.48 lakh crore, representing a ten per cent increase. In addition, it sanctioned Rs. 22,113 crore to bridge the revenue deficit over the next five years, a small sum compared to the current year’s deficit of Rs. 16,000 crore.
The crowning glory is the allocation of just Rs. 100 crore for the Polavaram multi-purpose project, which has been declared by the Centre as a national project to mollify residuary Andhra Pradesh to make up for the injustice to AP during bifurcation. At the current outlay, it will take 400 years to complete the Rs. 16,010 crore, said A. P. Minister for Irrigation, Devineni Uma Maheswara Rao.
Mr. Naidu had sought Rs. 20,000 crore in the current fiscal for building the new capital. This amount was meant for constructing the Raj Bhavan, Assembly buildings, Secretariat, residential quarters and other essential infrastructure but it was ignored in the budget after a token ad hoc grant of Rs. 500 crore recently.
Special category status may elude AP
The last straw is the Centre’s dogged refusal to bestow special category status to Andhra Pradesh for a period of 10 years. This assurance was extracted from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the BJP itself as a quid pro quo for supporting the Bill.
Nine months have elapsed since the Narendra Modi Government assumed office but it doggedly refuses to budge an inch and most political parties are convinced that special category status to AP is now history.
Even if Mr. Modi favours AP with special category status, he will have to extend the same facility to Bihar where Assembly elections are due this year. He will also have to fulfill West Bengal Government’s demand for a moratorium on its Rs. 2 lakh debt. Rajasthan, Odisha and Rajasthan are also pressing for special category status and, if the Centre obliges, it will open a Pandora’s Box.
Although on paper Mr. Naidu supported bifurcation, in reality he was opposed to division of the State. He, however, did not say so publicly like the late Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy did. In his eyes, the BJP is as much culpable as the Congress for Andhras’ woes for aiding passage of the A. P. Reorganisation Bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Venkaiah Naidu’s weak defence
The BJP’s defence articulated by Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu appears thin. He threw the blame back at the TDP for failing to submit the detailed project report for Polavaram and not readying the master plan for the new capital. “If we add the allocations proposed to AP in the Finance Commission as well as the budget, AP stands to get Rs. 2.6 lakh crore in the next five years”, he says.
The pragmatist that he is, Mr. Chandrababu Naidu is not going to pull out his Ministers from the Cabinet. He cannot afford to make such a mistake when TRS MPs like K. Kavitha are straining at the leash to join the Modi Government. In his own backyard, Andhra, YSR Congress president Jaganmohan Reddy will lose no opportunity to make friends with the BJP.
Chandrababu Naidu is no N. T. Rama Rao, who took out a march of MLAs from the Boat Club Lawns to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s residence in 1987 to protest against the Centre’s discrimination towards Andhra Pradesh.