It’s close to four years since the state was divided. But the wounded successor Andhra Pradesh is craving for a healing touch. The Union Budget 2018-19 brings under the spotlight the state’s leadership crisis which is seemingly responsible for the raw deal meted out to the state.
The unfair treatment in the union budget apart, Andhra under the NDA dispensation has been subjected to gross injustice in the last four years due to the failure in realising bifurcation promises.
The major promises that came from both the ruling UPA and the opposition NDA governments during that time were – special category status for the truncated state; funding for capital project in Amaravati and Polavaram irrigation project; bridging the revenue gap that had mounted to Rs 16,000 cr during the year of bifurcation itself; package for development of seven backward districts on the lines of the one offered for Bundelkhand.
The bad deal from the Centre is attributed to the lack of a charismatic leader in Andhra, like Telangana’s CM K Chandrasekhar Rao, to heal its wounds.
Special category status
The NDA government backed out from according special category status citing technical grounds. Chief Minister Naidu settled for a package given as a substitute since he could not stretch the issue beyond a point considering his party’s power-sharing in the NDA government.
Leader of Opposition YS Jagan Mohan Reddy also did not take his fight against the NDA government over the promises to the logical end. He discovered newfound love in Prime Minister Narendra Modi after he had a one-on-one meeting with him, after which his party supported the BJP’s candidates in the President and Vice President elections.
In this way, it seemed that both the ruling and the opposition parties were vying to please the NDA rulers, ignoring the fate of the truncated state.
Jana Sena Party leader Pawan Kalyan, who supported the TDP and the BJP in the last general election, took to the streets on the same issue for some time. Later, he projected himself as pro-establishment and pressed the pause button on his fight over the bifurcation promises.
Whither sunrise state?
The state received a paltry sum of Rs 700 cr as the package for development of backward districts in two spells in 2015-16 and 2016-17. The Polavaram project received allocations not exceeding Rs 4,500 cr over its estimated cost of Rs 58,000 cr and capital of Rs 1,800 cr as against its estimated cost of Rs 48,000 cr.
The AP Chamber of Commerce and Industry Executive Director Potluri Bhaskara Rao said AP was failing to transform itself into the ‘sunrise state’ in spite of efforts from the CM because of the failure of realising the special category status. Investors are not keen to come to AP in the absence of incentives. As a result, AP is lagging in industrial growth (21% of the GSDP in the second quarter of the current financial year) when compared to the sibling state (30%), he said.
AP’s business interests
The Andhra region, comprising the coastal districts, Rayalaseema and Uttarandhra areas, lost out in the game of bargaining at the time of division. The Samaikyandhra agitation headed by leadership with business interests in Telangana failed to assert the rights of the Andhra region. The movement confined itself to demanding a united state hoping that would protect their interests.
Hyderabad is still considered by Andhra people as a heaven for investments in industry and realty. Most people with political connections and entrepreneurship skills love to put their heart and soul in Telangana while physically remaining in their native state. Therefore, they opposed the division not for defending their regional interests but keeping control over Hyderabad and Telangana as a whole.
Andhra got itself into raging inter-state water conflicts and disputes over sharing of assets with Telangana, for want of better bargaining by its leadership with the Centre. The skewed formulae adopted by the Centre in the distribution of debts between the two states only worsened the condition of the successor AP.
Lack of active civil society
Writers, poets, balladeers, professionals, intelligentsia, students and government employees had organised themselves into the Telangana JAC to lead the statehood movement apolitically. Civil society in the Andhra region is not as active or involved in shaping the development of the state as in Telangana.
Why is civil society so active and vibrant in Telangana and why is it not so in Andhra? According to Prof K Nageswar, former member of the state Legislative Council and professor at Osmania University, there are some historical reasons for this. Ever since the armed conflict against the Nizam’s rule in the late 1940s spearheaded by Communists, Telangana has continued to be a hotbed for such movements.
A movement for separate statehood was launched in the 1970s under the leadership of former Chief Minister Marri Channa Reddy; its failure led to the Naxal movement. The series of agitations in Telangana produced an activist type of leadership and a cultural movement with alternative narratives, making civil society dynamic and vibrant. It all finally culminated in the formation of the Telangana state in 2014, Prof Nageswar sums up.
On the contrary, people in coastal Andhra are laidback, thanks to the wealth created in agriculture and an enterprising neo-middleclass following the irrigation system built by the British Engineer Sir Arthur Cotton on the Krishna and the Godavari rivers. The surplus income was diverted into industries, businesses and realty in Telangana by the first-generation beneficiaries of the green revolution after the formation of Andhra Pradesh in 1956.
Although an armed conflict was witnessed in Srikakulam in Uttarandhra, it remained an extension of the Naxal movement in Telangana and failed to spread to other parts of coastal Andhra.
People in Rayalaseema can be rather aggressive as their counterparts in Telangana. But these traits were conveniently utilised by faction lords for consolidation of their power in the region. Therefore, the confrontational postures of the Rayalaseema people hardly helped build movements for assertion of regional interests, resulting in perpetuation of factionalism and backwardness in the region.