No special status for Andhra says Centre, a dejected Naidu accepts package

This special assistance will be for five years -- 2015-2020.
No special status for Andhra says Centre, a dejected Naidu accepts package
No special status for Andhra says Centre, a dejected Naidu accepts package
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Admitting that he has no other alternative, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Thursday welcomed the announcement by the Centre that it will provide monetary benefits to the state equivalent to special category status.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief only demanded that the Centre gives clarity and implements its promises in a time-bound manner.

He addressed a news conference in Vijayawada past midnight, an hour after Union Finance Arun Jaitley made the announcement in Delhi.

After day-long suspense and hectic consultation in the national capital, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced on Wednesday night that the state will get monetary advantage equivalent to what it would have got if it was accorded the special category status.

Jaitley made it clear that then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement made in Rajya Sabha on Feb 20, 2014 for according special status to Andhra Pradesh can't be implemented as the 14th Finance Commission has recommended that the special category status can be given to only hill states and North-Eastern states.

"We have decided to give a special assistance measure for the state of Andhra Pradesh wherein an amount equivalent to what they would have got if that statement could have been implemented, will be compensated to the state by virtue of externally aided projects," he said without giving any figure.

Jaitley, who was accompanied by central ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Y.S. Chowdary, said this special assistance will be for five years -- 2015-2020.

On Polavarm irrigation project, he said from April 1, 2014 when it was declared a national project, the entire funding will be met by the Centre.

The Finance Minister said the issues of a railway zone, steel plant, delimitation of assembly constituencies and assistance for Chennai-Bengaluru and Visakhapatnam-Chennai corridors were under consideration of the concerned ministries.

He promised that the Centre will honour in letter and spirit every commitment made in Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.

Jaitley said the Centre already released Rs 3,975 crore towards revenue deficit of 2014-15 and balance will be released in instalments. "We have already given Rs 2,500 crore as support for the state capital. A further amount of Rs 1,050 crore has been given for backward area grants," he said.

Stating that there is a whole list of central institutions which have to be established in Andhra, he said some have started functioning while others will start functioning.

He said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) would issue notifications forthwith with regard to two tax concessions -- one with regard to accelerated depreciation and other investment allowance.

He noted that 14th Finance Commission also made some recommendations with regard to revenue deficit from 2015 till 2020. "Revenue deficit for first two years paid up to date and of course 42 per cent share is also being paid.

Naidu, whose TDP is a partner in BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, said while he still wants special category status, the Centre has at least come forward to declare that it will provide equivalent compensation.

Naidu said if he had insisted on special category status, the delay would further damage the state's interests.

He admitted that there is no alternative. This was obvious reference to political reality as National Democratic Alliance government is not dependent on TDP's support.

He also welcomed the announcement that the Centre will meet 100 per cent funding for Polavaram project but demanded that the work be speeded up.

The TDP chief also noted that the Centre agreed to bridge revenue deficit of the state for three years.

Naidu also claimed that the Centre agreed for formation of four industrial clusters, each with an investment of Rs 3,000 crore. 

He said the central government also agreed to extend help in developing a major port and in setting up Rs 20,000 crore refinery of Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) at Kakinada.

Oppositon reacts

The opposition parties in the state have not taken kindly to the Centre's decision and have upped the ante against Naidu's government for 'failing' them.

Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee president N Raghuveera Reddy issued a press release where he said that the Congress had granted special category to Andhra in 2014 itself and added that the TDP-BJP were trying to deceive the people all over again.

“The two years delay in getting the special assistance to the State was a clear indication of the gross incompetence of the Telugu Desam. The claim that the special assistance would be on par with the SCS was totally false,” Reddy was quoted as saying.

The Hindu quoted CPI State secretary K Ramakrishna as saying that September 7 was a black day in the history of the State. "The people should put sense into the Central Government by launching agitations," he added.

The report also quotes CPI(M) State general secretary P. Madhu saying "At least now the Chief Minister should disassociate himself with the BJP and launch an agitation in association with the opposition parties." 

Stating that Naidu was "very soft on the NDA" YSRCP leader Ambati Rambabu told The Indian Express, "It is a fraud on the people of Andhra Pradesh… As TDP and BJP are allies, Chandrababu is unable to put pressure on the Centre to give special category status to AP."

Inputs IANS

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