Andhra Pradesh special status row: TDP ministers walk out of Modi govt but NDA remains intact; say unfair to say Centre did nothing

The suspense over which way the already strained TDP-BJP ties will sway has subsided for now with the Telegu Desam Party ministers Ashok Gajapathi Raju (Civil Aviation) and YS Chowdary (MoS Science and Technology) quitting the Narendra Modi cabinet, while the party decided to continue supporting the NDA.

This came despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi making a last-ditch attempt to stave off the development.

However, the two ministers said the party was still part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance and it was hopeful that the promises made to Andhra Pradesh at the time of its bifurcation like the grant of special category status to the residual state and other financial demands would be met.

File photo of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

File photo of Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. AFP

The Union ministers' resignation came shortly after Modi spoke to Naidu over the telephone and reportedly urged him to reconsider pulling out of the NDA government. But Naidu apparently told him of his compulsions in domestic politics.

Meanwhile, the BJP in its turn returned the favour as two Andhra ministers of the party quit the Naidu government. Andhra health minister Kamineni Srinivas and Endowments minister P Manikyala Rao met the chief minister at the state Assembly and submitted their resignations. They thanked him for having inducted them into the state Cabinet. The chief minister, in turn, complimented the BJP members, saying they had discharged their duties well.

The action by the TDP, which has 16 members in the Lok Sabha and six in Rajya Sabha, will have no impact on the stability of the Modi government which has sufficient numbers in Parliament but will be seen as a big political setback because TDP is the first pre-poll ally to pull out of the Centre in nearly four years.

However, even as TDP walked out of the government, it signalled that the possibility of a patch up is not ruled out.

"We are continuing as part of the NDA. The problems are well known and we are hopeful that the commitments made by the national parties at the time of bifurcation will be met. Everyone in Andhra Pradesh wants that the promises should be implemented. Solutions are being attempted. We are trying to get solutions. We hope solutions will come. We have resigned in a cordial atmosphere," Chowdary said.

Both ministers said they know that the clock cannot be put back on the bifurcation but there are sentiments and emotions in the state which are to be addressed.

Asked what was the prime minister's response, they quoted him as saying it was unfortunate but he understood that it was a party decision. "I am with the state of Andhra Pradesh and for the people of Andhra Pradesh," Modi told them.

Manjul Toons

Chowdary said it was wrong for the media to expect that they went to negotiate with the prime minister. "It is for various departments of the Centre to work for fulfilling the demands of Andhra Pradesh.

"The major sentimental issue has not been addressed well in time. At least the special package should have been implemented by putting time-lines. People of Andhra Pradesh are very emotional. One national party has deceived us and the other has cheated us," he said.

Chowdary also said that even the special package was not adequate. He, however, said it would be unfair to say that the Centre did nothing for the state.

Asked about the deadline for the Centre to meet the TDP demands, he said, "16th Lok Sabha."

He also said the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act should not have been passed amid din in Parliament.

Chowdary conceded that the Centre did meet some demands but Andhra Pradesh needed a lot of hand-holding because demands like special category status were major emotional and sentimental issues.

In his resignation letter, Raju expressed his gratitude for the cooperation extended to him as a member of the Council of Ministers. Chowdary, in his letter, said he had enjoyed working with Modi and appreciated the support given to him.

"However, with due respect to the prevailing public sentiment in my constituency as well as the circumstances that led to that situation, and in adherence to the decision taken by my party (TDP) president, I am hereby tendering my resignation as Union Minister of State for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences," Chowdary said.

"We will be happy when marriages happen, not when divorces happen. It is not a good move, but unfortunately due to unavoidable circumstances we had to take this move. We are stepping down as ministers, but our president has said we will be continuing as part of NDA," Chowdary told reporters. The beauty of democracy, he said, was to bring unanimity and make everyone happy and this was the BJP's responsibility.

Asked about Congress president Rahul Gandhi's offer of giving special status to Andhra Pradesh if the party came to power, he said it was a hypothetical situation.

According to Raju, "The division was done unscientifically, this is told today by even those who did it. And it needs corrective action. That is what we are requesting now."

TDP MP Konagalla Narayana said Naidu waited for four years and the decision to withdraw the party's ministers was an outcome of his losing patience.

"The chief felt that during a fight for special status, it is not right to have our members in their cabinet. So he took this decision... now if they don't act, this agitation will be intensified," Narayana said.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: Mar 08, 2018 22:14 PM | Updated Date: Mar 08, 2018 22:14 PM

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