On March 7, 2018, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu announced that the two Telugu Desam Party Union ministers would resign from their posts as a mark of protest against the Centre for not issuing Special Category Status to the state.
Leader of Opposition YS Jaganmohan Reddy of YSR Congress Party’s hailed this as people’s victory, saying that the he will continue putting unrelenting pressure put on the Centre to ensure Special Category Status (SCS) for the state forcing the CM to act.
Earlier on, he had declared that his party would move a no-confidence motion against the NDA government on March 21 if it failed to act on the demand for SCS.
Now this was merely a trick employed by the Opposition to put the TDP in a Catch-22 situation. Faced with no alternative, Chandrababu asked his ministers to resign from the Centre, without quite breaking ties with the ruling National Democratic Alliance.
However, Jagan Mohan has declared now that all MPs from the TDP must resign from the Parliament to register their protest in line with the YSRCP. Jagan stated that his party MPs will resign from their posts on April 6.
If Chandrababu were to notch a point or two over his rival, the parting of ways between the TDP and Bharatiya Janata Party is inevitable. To contend the YSRCP offensive, TDP appears to be building the argument that if the MPs resign, the state is only orphaning itself further in the Parliament.
It is clear that political parties in AP are building their discourse around the sentiment of SCS, rather than its substance. The TDP and BJP aim to strike each other for political gains, letting the NDA live in a safe zone for their own political compulsions.
The NDA had offered the state a special package as an alternative and the state government accepted it. The Centre explained that it couldn’t accord SCS, citing technical reasons raised by the Fourteenth Finance Commission. The YSRCP had immediately painted the NDA and TDP as betrayers and had announced it would resign from the Parliament as mark of a protest.
Later, however, its leader put this protest on a temporary backburner and extended unconditional support to the NDA candidates in the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections – probably in a bid to get a breather from the ED cases stacked against its leaders.
But Naidu too did a U-turn and began playing to the galleries, holding aloft the SCS flag in keeping with public sentiment.
What was seen as a dead issue sprang alive now that elections are fast approaching.
The CM Naidu and Finance Minister Yanamala Rama Krishnudu made it clear that the party could not be held hostage to “economic offender” Jagan and that his actions would in no way harm the numerically strong Modi government.
A source in the TDP said, “We could somehow manage to neutralize the YSRC’s no-trust move challenge by withdrawing our ministers from the government well in advance. Breaking off ties with the BJP altogether may be inevitable to defend ourselves as a next step much before the YSRC members put in their papers.”
The fact that TDP is rather jittery about its BJP company could be seen when the latter’s ministers – Kamineni Srinivas (Health) and Pidikondala Manikyala Rao (Endowments) – resigned from their state posts and the resignations were almost immediately accepted.
Naidu is holding hectic parleys with his Cabinet ministers, members of the coordination committee and officials on a day-to-day basis to take stock of the after-effects of the potential breakup with the NDA.
The feedback allegedly states that the TDP should cut ties with the BJP and champion the cause of SCS, before YSRCP members resign. Sources added that top officials, however, want the CM to remain cognisant of the impact this move could have on the state’s financial condition and the fate of ongoing Central schemes like MGNREGA.
The Centre suspended the release of funds to the tune of Rs 300 crore under the job scheme following complaints of irregularities and workers engaged under the scheme failed to receive their wages for the last three months. The state government is constrained to mobilize funds from its own sources to pay the wages to the MGNREGA workers.
In a similar fashion, the state government is raising funds on its own to meet the expenditure on the Polavaram project and is seeking reimbursement from the Centre. The Centre, in turn, citing technical reasons, has failed to release funds for the project.
This is impacting the progress of the project and the TDP’s aim to complete it well before the 2019 polls now hangs in balance.
Moreover, this diversion of funds to this project will soon have a telling effect on welfare schemes, such as housing and pensions.
The situation could worsen a lot more if relations with the Centre are further strained.
Unfortunately, political parties in the state are painting SCS as the saviour to all the ills plaguing post-bifurcation AP.
The current politics in AP revolving around the SCS sentiment replicates the narrative constructed by the advocates of a separate Telangana movement centring on the regional sentiment.