Whether Andhra Pradesh gets special status or not, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu would hope to generate enough political mileage from the Dharma Porata Deeksha hunger strike he undertook in New Delhi.
The hunger strike on Monday became a rallying point for the opposition around the agitating chief minister and showcase unity against the BJP. The 12-hour-long programme that began at 8 o’ clock in the morning looked more like an attempt to create an electoral plank for the ruling Telugu Desam Party rather than a demand for special status for the state.
Andhra Pradesh is heading for Assembly election in April or May this year simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.
“When Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into two states it was promised that it would be given the status of a special state which was not given. Later it was assured that Andhra Pradesh would be granted special package to fulfil its needs such as a building for the state capital complex. We were a part of the NDA and hence our party waited for four years hoping that the promises would be fulfilled. But after the long wait we pulled out support as the promises were not met,” said Parthasarathi, a Telegu Desam Party MLA to Firstpost.
On March last year, the TDP pulled out of NDA after a prolonged spat over a special package to Andhra Pradesh with BJP.
During the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the Centre made 18 promises to the state including funding for constructing new capital in Amaravati and Polavaram irrigation project. But the TDP has been complaining that none of them has been fufilled in entirety.
Even as the TDP blames the centre of betrayal, the BJP has been accusing that the former is resorting to lies to cover up its inept and inert governance.
Parthasarathi however hoped that the protest programme would ring a bell in the ears of the NDA government at the Centre.
Rather than conveying the message to the Centre, more effort was felt in the protest programme to cater to an audience back there in Andhra Pradesh.
Naidu and his cabinet spoke in chaste Telugu most of the time which was relayed to the television screens by all the Telugu news channels ceaselessly.
The protest came close on the heels of another dharna led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata against the Centre accusing it of destroying the federal structure of the nation.
The Kolkata dharna was seen as Mamata’s attempt to hold on tight to her home turf by raising herself to a pedestal as high as Modi’s in national politics, at least in the imagination of her voters.
Like the previous one, the Naidu's Delhi dharna too which also became a rallying point for opposition leaders such as Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, looked like a similar attempt.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows very well that Chandrababu Naidu is one of the most powerful chief ministers in India and he is the only person who can unite the nation against him. This is the reason why Modi has been trying to keep him down by depriving Andhra Pradesh of its rights,” said Qasim Khan, TDP organising secretary in Guntur district.
He also claimed that despite insufficient grants from the Centre, the state goverrnment on its own has completed 70 percent works of the Polavaram irrigation project and 30 percent of the capital construction project.
“Apart from that we have connected Krishna and Godavari river to irrigate land of the farmers,” he said.
Despite claims made by the TDP, it is getting tougher by the day for the TDP government to meet its fund requirements without much help coming in from the Centre. In a condition like this, a second term for the party in the Assembly elections to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls looks like a bleak possibility.
Last year the Andhra Pradesh government allowed the state owned corporations to garner loans on its own from financial institutions as the state budget does not permit the government to further avail loans.
No wonder the ‘Modi Hatao Desh Bachao’ pitch got higher in the dharna.
“Our single point agenda is to remove Modi from power. Once Modi is thrown out of power Andhra Pradesh will be solved,” Khan said.
The TDP saw its popularity spiralling down in the recently held Telengana polls, where the TDP-Congress alliance was trounced. The fear that this might replicate in the Assembly elections looms large.
Party organising secretary Vasanta Satyanarayana doubts that the BJP is trying to foray into Andhra Pradesh politics through opposition YSR Congress Party in the state.
“BJP is conspiring with YS Jaganmohan Reddy, the leader of the main oppositon party to grab power in Andhra Pradesh. We will fight against this power tooth and nail to keep them out of power,” Satyanarayana said.
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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 16:24:18 IST