In a political setback for the ruling YSRCP on their home turf, the ruling NDA has invoked the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission to deny Andhra Pradesh's claim for Special Category Status. The promise of achieving a special status was one of the polls promises made by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy before coming to power.
In response to a question on the implementation status of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, the Minister of State in Home Affairs Nityanand Rai wrote that the Centre is following the 14th Finance Commission that does not recognise the class of Special Category to states.
He was responding to Balli Durgaprasad Rao, the YSRCP MP from Tirupati on Tuesday. Durgaprasad had asked for the status of various pending issues under the AP Reorganisation Act 2014. The promise of a Special Category status was part of the Act, at the time of state bifurcation to form Telangana.
In his written reply, Nityandan Rai said that the state has already availed special assistance, mostly through centrally sponsored projects. "Following recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission, the class of Special has ceased to exist. The Central Government has agreed to give special assistance to the State of Andhra Pradesh to make up for the additional Central share the State might have received during 2015-16 to 2019-20, if the funding of Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) would have been shared at the ratio of 90:10 between the Centre and the State."
"The special assistance is to be the way of repayment of loan and interest for the Externally Aided Projects (EAPs) disbursed during the period 2015-2016 to 2019-20 by the State," read his reply.
In March 2018, while the TDP was in power and shortly before breaking their alliance formally with the BJP at the Centre, then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said, “At that time (of state bifurcation), special category state concept did exist. But, the 14th Finance Commission removed the concept of a special category." He reportedly said, “The only variation is that after Finance Commission report instead of formally calling it a special category state, we are calling it a special package, which gives same monetary benefits that a special category state gives you,”. A few weeks after this, the TDP raised a no-confidence motion against the NDA in Parliament.
The14th Finance Commission has significantly departed from previous commissions in the way of governing grants-in-aid to the states by the Centre.
The 14th Finance Commission recommends taking the entire revenue expenditure of a state into account. The commission wanted to "move away" from the previous Finance Commissions style of working and recommended states to share a greater fiscal responsibility for the implementation of Centrally-sponsored schemes. It also recommended a sharing pattern between the states and the Centre but does not make any mention of the concept of Special Category status.
The YSRCP has called this written response by the BJP led NDA government a violation of the Indian Constitution. The YSRCP legislator and party spokesperson TJR Sudhakar Babu told ToI, "For any reason, if BJP fails or refuses to give special category status to Andhra Pradesh, the party will be wiped out in the state. It is a clear betrayal and violation of the Constitution."