Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said two ministers of his Telugu Desam Party will quit the central government on Thursday.
The tense ties between allies TDP and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have reached a flashpoint after Naidu’s failed bid to secure special category status for Andhra Pradesh.
Politicians in the TDP say 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.
If their demand is not met even after pulling out the ministers, the TDP will consider quitting the ruling coalition.
But unperturbed by the threat reports suggest that BJP ministers in the Andhra cabinet will quit in a reciprocal move. The BJP has also rejected Naidu’s charge that the government led by Narendra Modi neglected Andhra, saying the Centre not only fulfilled all its obligations but also went out of its way to help the state.
Shiv Sena says the developments in Andhra are as expected. “Other parties have walked out of NDA too. Allies no longer have good relations with BJP. Gradually their grudges will spill out and eventually they’ll walk out of alliance,” ANI quotes Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.
BJP state legislator PVN Madhav says, “Decided that our ministers will resign from TDP Cabinet. We will be going to the people and telling them all the things Centre has done for the state. Since independence till date, no state has received as many favours as that were given to Andhra Pradesh”.
TDP’s YS Chowdary, junior minister for science and technology, says, “It is not a good move but unfortunately due to unavoidable circumstances we’re stepping down as ministers.
In fresh development BJP ministers are expected to skip the Andhra cabinet meeting to be held by CM Chandrababu Naidu to approve state budget. BJP ministers in the Andhra cabinet Kamineni Srinivas and P Manikyalal Rao – are expected to submit their resignations to the Speaker.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel reacts to CM Naidu’s remark that he couldn’t speak to PM Modi directly. “It is very unfortunate that the Prime Minister couldn’t take the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s phone call on such an important matter. This doesn’t augur well for the interest of the people of Andhra Pradesh,” ANI quoted him as saying.
Before the Wednesday night’s announcement, TDP leaders said the BJP had pushed them to a position where taking a “tough stand” was the only option left. 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.
Angered over this 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.
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 on Wednesday, 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 warned.
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. if this happened then BJP getting zero representation in South India Dravidan States will be clear on the wall.