VIJAYAWADA: With the Centre making it clear that special category status for Andhra Pradesh is not possible and most TDP MLAs and MLCs wanting the party to end its alliance with BJP, TDP president and chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is likely to set the separation process in motion beginning with the resignation of two TDP ministers — Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y S Chowdhary — from the Narendra Modi cabinet.
At the TDP Legislature Party meeting in Vijayawada on Tuesday, all 125 MLAs and 34 MLCs, barring six absentees, strongly advocated ending the alliance with BJP, sources said. “CM Naidu is now all set to take steps to end the alliance. It will begin with the two central ministers stepping down, most likely on March 10. Withdrawing support to the NDA government at the Centre is likely to happen in the next few days after the two ministers resign,” a source said.
BJP sources in Delhi appeared to be bracing for what looked like an imminent parting of ways with the ally. “We are committed to development of Andhra Pradesh and have done everything possible to help the state government. But we cannot meet impossible demands. We cannot give special category status on the ground of backwardness because on that count it is Bihar which should be considered first,” a senior BJP leader said.
“Now, they are demanding tax concessions and we cannot make that exception for a state,” another BJP leader said, conceding that the de-escalation expected after a meeting of TDP MPs with finance minister Arun Jaitley had not materialised.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi waded into the tussle and said his party would grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh if voted to power in 2019. “We will give special category status to Andhra Pradesh. It’s the first thing we will do after coming to power in 2019,” he told a group of party workers protesting at Jantar Mantar in Delhi to demand special status for the state.
“I am confident that if we stand together, we will convince the government of India and PM Narendra Modi that what is due to the people of Andhra Pradesh should be given to them,” he added.
Meanwhile, armed with feedback from his elected representatives on the future of the alliance, Naidu will make a statement in the AP assembly on Wednesday, sources said. At Tuesday’s meeting, Naidu told his legislators to expose the “injustice” meted out to Andhra Pradesh by BJP, sources said.
“The people of AP buried Congress for cheating them and BJP should remember it. How can BJP seek votes without doing justice to people? The Union government is making a mockery of the state, I will give more clarity on the floor of the house tomorrow,” Naidu said.
Earlier in the day, while speaking in the assembly, Naidu cautioned the BJP leadership that they would face severe resistance from the people if special category status was denied to AP. He said special status was first promised by the BJP leadership, but later they were told the tag would be withdrawn for all states soon. It was only then that he had agreed to the special package, the CM said, adding that since special category status was still in place, AP too should be extended the measure and granted all other benefits as promised.
Meanwhile, Jaitley is said to have informed AP representatives during their meeting on Monday that the Centre could only consider a special package for AP and that granting special category status was out of the question. If backwardness was the criterion, many others states, including Bihar and West Bengal, would also make the same demand and it would not be possible to give such status to many states, Jaitley told the AP delegation.