Andhra Pradesh special status row: Amit Shah's letter to Chandrababu Naidu offers little clarity, widens rift between BJP and TDP

BJP president Amit Shah's letter to Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu is filled with rhetoric and doesn't answer key questions such as why the special status for the state has been denied and how far the special package has really grounded. The defence is replete with generalities and accusations against the state government. While giving Centre's version of issues, Shah fails to answer critical questions facing the government.

 Andhra Pradesh special status row: Amit Shahs letter to Chandrababu Naidu offers little clarity, widens rift between BJP and TDP

File image of BJP president Amit Shah. Twitter@AmitShah

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left no stone unturned in ensuring the growth and prosperity of Andhra Pradesh, the BJP president asserted. But this is not a special favour accorded to the state suffering due to bifurcation thrust upon it, against its interests. The prime minister is constitutionally-bound to work for the growth and prosperity of every state, including Andhra Pradesh.

While asserting that it is the BJP that has led the voice of safeguarding the welfare of Telugu people in both the Telugu states, Shah laid the blame at the feet of the Congress, which not only mismanaged the bifurcation but also showed zero sensitivity towards the Telugu people. But Amit Shah conveniently ignored the fact that it was the BJP, then the Opposition, which was party to the 'mismanaged' exercise of bifurcation.

The Congress could not have ensured the passage of Andhra Pradesh state bifurcation Act without the active support of BJP. The BJP president failed to answer why his party-led Government of India has not comprehensively amended the bifurcation Act to remove its distortions to do maximum justice to Telugu people. It may be recalled that the Modi government, in its first Cabinet meeting, amended the Act to transfer the mandals due for submergence under the Polavaram Project from Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.

The Centre should have further amended it. Instead, the ruling party chose to curse the earlier Congress government. The people of Andhra Pradesh have already punished the Congress for its sins of bifurcation. Even the people of Telangana have not given it power for its parochial politics of bifurcation. Thus, the BJP can no longer defend its deeds by repeatedly referring to the Congress. Not just Shah, even the prime minister did the same thing in Parliament. This is only aimed at diverting the attention from the questions being posed to the NDA.

The BJP president further claimed that most of the promises made in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, are poised towards fulfilment and massive resources were allocated for the state. The BJP president's letter deliberately avoided any concrete or firm substantiation and chose to use abstract phrases such as  'poised towards fulfilment '. The claims of fulfilment of Act are far from reality as this Firstpost article pointed out.

Shah referred to devolution of 42 percent of central revenues (against 32 percent earlier): Amounting to an additional Rs 2 lakh crore to the states. All this makes it very obvious that any claim of discrimination against Andhra Pradesh is far from factual, Shah argued. This argument is fallacious on two counts: While increasing the percentage of central transfers, the Union government reduced the number of centrally-sponsored schemes under which the states were also getting funds.

Besides, in these four years, a number of cesses were imposed and the accruals under these would be appropriated by Centre. More importantly, the new devolution formula is nothing specific to Andhra Pradesh and is unrelated to the bifurcation context in which the state has a right to receive a lot more.

Shah, in his letter, stated that several new educational intuitions mentioned under Schedule 13 of the Bifurcation Act have been set up and they have started functioning. The state government allotted land worth Rs 12,000 crore for establishment of these institutions. But, barring All India Institutes of Medical Sciences, civil construction works have not been taken up in any educational institution. In the past four years, the Centre spent only Rs 600 crore for these institutions, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu told the Assembly on Saturday.

Shah said the Centre initiated action on five feasible infrastructural projects. But the TDP, in its detailed reply to Shah's letter, questioned why the BJP president failed to mention the reasons for the delay in grounding these projects, impediments and measures taken to overcome these obstacles.

Though Shah referred to several ongoing railway projects to paint give a picture that the Centre has done a lot for state, there were no details of the phases these projects were in and no time table for their completion. While stating that the Centre already accorded in principle approval for metro projects, Shah also said the Centre is awaiting revised proposal for the project. But Ch. Kutumba Rao, vice president of Andhra Pradesh State Planning Board, said the state would be at a loss if a revised proposal is sought as the current metro policy does not provide for central component.

With regard to ports, steel plants and railway zones, Shah's letter wants the people of Andhra Pradesh to be satisfied with empty rhetoric in the form of the 'Centre working out modalities to make this happen' and 'under active consideration'. This, four years after the NDA government assumed office.

It is surprising that the BJP president sought credit for the recommendations of a constitutional body like Finance Commission with regard to bridging the fiscal deficit. The Centre, meanwhile, refuses to settle the dispute over the estimation of revenue deficit between itself and the state. The letter stated that the NDA government has more than doubled the extent of central assistance to Andhra Pradesh as compared to the total funds allocated in the previous five years.

But, surprisingly, Shah failed to explain how much of this increase is due to the general buoyancy in Centre's revenues and therefore, what is due to Andhra Pradesh in normal course — like any other state — and how much is the result of Centre's commitment to Andhra Pradesh in the wake of bifurcation.

Even after the chairman and the members of 14th Finance Commission clarified that the commission was not asked to make any recommendation on the special status, it is bizarre that the leadership at the Centre still denies special status to Andhra Pradesh quoting the same commission. It is also irrational to show that Rs 1,000 crore was allotted for underground drainage work in Vijayawada and Guntur under the funds for the capital.

Thus, Shah's letter further infuriated the TDP and widened the gap between the two erstwhile allies. The BJP president's response is, more or less, the same that is put forth by the BJP state party leaders. Rather than achieving any clarity on the contesting claims of the Centre and state government, the war of words will only intensify.

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Updated Date: Mar 25, 2018 17:01:11 IST