Since the bifurcation of Telugu states, Andhra Pradesh appealed several times for Special Category Status and clearance of pending Polavaram Project. Despite repeated requests BJP government ignored the issues and kept in abeyance and played tricky politics.
It is a matter of pity that a fledgling state, carved out in 2014 with umpteen promises, including those embedded in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act 2014, along with the overarching promise of being conferred Special Category Status (SCS), has now been left to its own devices due to sheer political maneuvering.
Post bifurcation, the residual state of AP has lost almost all of its past glory. Its bargaining position vis-à-vis the Centre is weakening by the day. At the time of bifurcation, it was assured SCS by no less an person than then Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, after the bill for Reorganization of undivided AP was passed by the Lok Sabha.
The Government of India later stated that the assurance regarding SCS made in the Rajya Sabha was enough for its eventual implementation. Nobody insisted on specific approval for SCS by the Lok Sabha. SCS was widely publicised by ruling as well as opposition members then to woo the people of residuary AP. M.Venkaiah Naidu, then senior leader of BJP, demanded that SCS be implemented in the case of AP for 20 years, since the period of five years assured by the then Prime Minister was not enough for ensuring considerable growth.
Given the changed circumstances at the Centre, with the BJP gaining upper hand under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the issue concerning SCS is getting diluted.
Initially Telangana, carved out of the erstwhile AP, had opposed SCS for residuary AP on the grounds that TS-bound industries might shift to AP for relatively better incentives and other financial benefits.
It is a different matter that the Centre is not dilly-dallying on SCS due to the pressure exerted by TS. Actually AP might be able to compete with other states on the development front more effectively should SCS be implemented. It was clearly a dire need of the residuary AP that began its journey with a revenue deficit of Rs. 16,000 crore. Instead of getting kid-glove treatment, AP ultimately got only a raw deal without SCS, despite repeated requests from political parties in the state.
Adding insult to injury, the Government of India recently dropped SCS from the agenda of the three-member committee just formed to resolve long-pending issues concerning bifurcation, including financial problems and payments, between Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The first meeting of the panel is slated to be held on 17th February in the national capital.
The dropping of SCS as an item of the agenda in the elevent hour has hurt AP most, because it had been initially included in the agenda with much fanfare in AP. Earlier, YSRCP took advantage of it, with its MLAs boasting that the credit for inclusion of SCS went to Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy. Their glowing faces turned red by evening on the day of the announcement as the Government of India removed SCS from the agenda.
Everybody, including Jagan, had to swallow a bitter pill. Not to be outdone, YSR Congress leaders and some MLAs, however, held the Telugu Desam Party led by former AP Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu responsible for ‘exclusion’ of SCS from the agenda. Strangely, YSRCP holds BJP MPs from AP TG Venkatesh and Y. Satyanarayana (Sujana) Chowdary (who had shifted their loyalties to BJP from TDP) squarely responsible for the exclusion.
Now the ruling and the principal opposition parties’ leaders are blaming one another, though AP badly needs SCS for reaching a level playing field while competing with various states on the development front.
In fact, SCS is a poll promise made by YSRC. YSRC had stated that it would bring SCS for AP, should it win at least 25 LS seats in the state. YSRC won 22 LS seats. Chief Minister Jagan himself commented at the initial stage in New Delhi that they would have got SCS had the Modi government required their support in the House.
All told, residuary AP is in precarious position. The erstwhile Andhra Pradesh was considered the gateway for the country’s southern region, with 42 Lok Sabha seats, giving the state substantial bargaining power in getting funds and realising its demands from the centre. AP shared fourth place with West Bengal in terms of strength in Parliament with the same number of 42 LS & 294 Assembly seats. Till the year 2000, UP was in the first place with 84 Lok Sabha seats; Bihar in second place, with 54 seats; and Maharashtra in third place, with 48 seats.
The reorganisation of UP and Bihar in 2,000 had reduced their strengths in the Lok Sabha to 80 seats and 40 seats respectively. Now AP ranks 13th by virtue of its strength in the Lok Sabha and AP’s Reorganization had made Tamil Nadu number one state in south India, with 39 seats in LS.
Tamil leaders like P. Chidambaram were in the forefront in supporting AP’s Reorganisation Act-2014 for the future position of being number one in south India.
Residuary AP is struggling due to intractable issues like SCS and Polavaram. No reimbursement of funds spent on Polavaram by the state has been made so far; instead, GoI has cut the original estimates of Polavaram multi-purpose project, which is considered the lifeline of the state.
AP might be in a position to utilize nearly 1,000 TMC of water in the river Godavari upon completion of Polavaram. However, given meagre allotments of funds in annual budgets, there is question mark over its completion. Although Polavaram has been accorded national project status, it has been facing financial crunch year after year.
The face of residuary AP can be changed with the implementation of Polavaram and SCS.This requires support from the GoI. But the present Union Government is least bothered. In the absence of bargaining power, AP seems to have lost its sheen forever. It is now at the mercy of the Government of India for its development. #KhabarLive #hydnews