TDP legislators urge Chandrababu Naidu to end ties with BJP; Gajapathi Raju, YS Chowdhury may quit ministerial posts soon

Amid the ongoing deadlock over the issue of granting 'special category' status to Andhra Pradesh, Telugu Desam Party MLAs and MLCs on Tuesday urged Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu to snap ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party, media reports said.

In the TDP legislature party meeting in Vijayawada, all 125 MLAs and 34 MLCs, barring six absentees, backed Naidu to break ties with BJP for not granting 'special category' status to Andhra Pradesh, reported The Times of India.

According to the report, the process of separating from the national ally may begin on 10 March, when the two TDP ministers in the Union Cabinet, Ashok Gajapathi Raju and YS Chowdhury, are likely to resign. Notably, TDP had previously given outside support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance between 1998 and 2004.

The Indian Express reported that Naidu told the legislators at the meeting that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cold shouldered Andhra Pradesh finance minister Y Ramakrishnudu during a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. “Jaitley not only refused to acknowledge any of demands put forward, including the request to release funds to bridge the revenue deficit gap of over Rs 16,000 crore, but also said there was no question of granting Special Category Status and that there was very little fund left to give under the special package announced in 2017. This attitude is very disparaging and unacceptable," Naidu was quoted as saying.

Naidu also told his state lawmakers that the party is not seeking any favour but only urging the Union government to fulfil its 2014 promise of helping the bifurcated state, the report noted.

On Wednesday, speaking to CNN-News18, TDP MP TG Venkatesh said that Jaitley's blunt refusal to grant 'special category' status for Andhra Pradesh is likely to force Naidu to take the final call on separation. "Jaitley didn't show any flexibility over the issue. We are left with no option but to leave the alliance. The decision will be announced by Naidu," he said.

File image of Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu. AP

File image of Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu. AP

Congress, AAP back TDP's demand

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that his party will grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh if voted to power in 2019. Even the Aam Aadmi Party has extended its support to the demand. "We will give special category status to Andhra Pradesh. It's the first thing we will do after coming to power in 2019," he told a group of party workers who protested at Jantar Mantar demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh.

"I am confident that if we stand together we will convince the Government of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that what is due to the people of Andhra Pradesh should be given to them," he added. He later tweeted: This afternoon I joined the protests at Jantar Mantar demanding "Special Status" for Andhra Pradesh.

AAP MLA Somnath Bharti, who also joined the protest, said he had come to extend support on "behalf" of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. "I have come with the Delhi chief minister's message of support. The AAP will support the Congress wherever they raise this demand, be it inside or outside Parliament," he said.

Significance of Naidu's 'cold shoulder' comment

Naidu's statement came a day after the meeting with Jaitley failed to produce a breakthrough. TDP, a partner in the BJP-led NDA government, then decided to continue with the protest in Parliament over its demands.

Ramakrishnudu, who led the TDP delegation, told reporters after the meeting that they stuck to their demand for special status. The party also insisted that the Centre should bridge Rs 16,000-crore revenue deficit and extend industrial incentives at par with other states. He said Jaitley assured them that he would discuss the issue with other ministers. It was decided to have another meeting. He, however, said the TDP would continue its protest in Parliament.

Surprisingly, BJP national president Amit Shah did not attend the meeting, which was held at his insistence. He had a telephonic talk with Naidu last week after the TDP decided to step up its protest.

BJP's Andhra Pradesh unit president K Haribabu, who attended the meeting, said Jaitley assured the TDP delegation that if the Centre could not bridge the state's revenue deficit or could not grant the special status, it would ensure equal benefits. The TDP has been demanding the Centre to fulfil all commitments made in at the time of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014. Naidu had alleged that the Centre's attitude was causing unrest among people. He had even threatened to move the Supreme Court over the Centre not fulfilling the commitments.

Although the TDP had in 2017 given up its demand of special category status in lieu of the special package announced by Jaitley, in recent days it once again raised the issue.

The party leaders said since Jaitley's promise that the state would get the same financial benefits under the package which it would have got with the special status remained unfulfilled, they were demanding the special status.

With inputs from agencies

Published Date: Mar 07, 2018 11:21 AM | Updated Date: Mar 07, 2018 11:21 AM

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