Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, set off a controversy on Thursday after he appealed to the TDP to rejoin the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), failing which he said that the BJP could ally with YSRCP.
Speaking to reporters in Vijayawada after official meetings on SC/ST welfare initiatives, Athawale said, "Narendra Modi will again become the Prime Minister in 2019. Therefore, I appeal to Chandrababu Naidu, who is a strong leader, to rejoin the alliance. This is my suggestion and a request. If he does not join us, we will appeal to Jagan to be part of the NDA for the welfare of Andhra Pradesh...Jagan is not only strong but also popular in Andhra Pradesh."
He also defended the various charges of corruption, disproportionate assets and money laundering faced by the YSRCP leader, saying that it was yet to be proved.
"The Congress party had brutally disturbed Jagan [with cases] after he quit the party. He wanted to become the Chief Minister of the State then, but the Congress did not accept that," he said.
He also said that Jagan was popular as he was the son of late Andhra Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy.
When asked about the issue of Special Category Status (SCS), the Union Minister said that it was not possible to grant SCS to Andhra Pradesh, as other states would demand it as well. However, he said that the Centre was more than willing to help the state with more funds.
Last month, the TDP pulled out of NDA to protest its refusal to give special status to the state. Naidu alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone back on the promises he made in 2014 elections.
He also accused the NDA government of failing to implement provisions made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.