In March 2017, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed a resolution thanking the Centre for approving a special economic package for the state. During the debate, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu said that every benefit that would have come under the Special Category Status (SCS) would accrue to Andhra Pradesh through the package.
"This will be the harbinger of development of our new state that suffered heavily due to the irrational bifurcation,'' added the chief minister.
On Friday, all the BJP has to do is to take out this resolution and read out from it during the debate on the no-confidence motion moved by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). All eyes will be on TDP's lead speaker, Jaydev Galla, on how he negotiates this googly that is certain to be bowled by the treasury benches.
Naidu has taken a U-turn from his 2017 position and is once again demanding SCS, as promised by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh during the debate on the bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh in 2013. That SCS will be given to Andhra was reiterated by Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu on the campaign trail ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In fact, Venkaiah said SCS will be accorded not for five years, as promised by Singh, but for a decade if the BJP came to power.
The point is that while the BJP has not kept its word, Chandrababu too is guilty of not having pushed hard enough. If he was convinced in March last year that the package was good enough, what changed in a year? Was it only because Jaganmohan Reddy and Pawan Kalyan were making political capital out of Naidu's inability to make Modi fulfil the Centre's promise to Andhra?
Which is why Naidu's umbrage at the BJP seems manufactured, with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The TDP chief gained by making a villain of the Congress that had divided Andhra Pradesh ahead of the 2014 polls. Demonising the BJP is going back to the same template, with a few minor tweaks.
It is not as if the TDP is not aware of this risk factor. The reason Naidu decided to move the motion of no-confidence was that he wants his rather bitter fight with the BJP to go national.
It also allows the TDP to take a leadership role in the Opposition alliance against the BJP. The argument also is that the Centre did little to even grant the special package it said it will.
But despite Naidu's attempt to make it seem that it is not just Andhra versus the Centre, his own southern neighbours are not inclined to stand by his side. K Chandrasekhar Rao, whose idea of a non-Congress, non-BJP front was suspected to be a ploy to help Modi ahead of 2019, has not revealed his cards yet. According to sources in the TRS, he is not willing to support Naidu over SCS, arguing the promise was not part of the written word in the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.
The AIADMK too feels the TDP has moved the motion for its state's interests and argues no other party supported it when it was agitating over Cauvery. But the real reason, as it is for TRS, is that the AIADMK does not wish to be on the wrong side of Modi, when it is clear that he has the numbers in Parliament. More so, when its leaders and those close to them have been at the receiving end of Income Tax raids in Tamil Nadu.
Another reason is that both Hyderabad and Chennai are not in favour of SCS to Andhra. The argument is that special incentives to Andhra will tempt investors to shift base or look at Amaravati as the place to make fresh investments. Already, Tamil Nadu loses investments to Sri City SEZ in Chittoor district, located at a distance of 65 kilometres from Chennai. In fact, 25 percent of the companies working out of Sri City have their registered offices in Chennai and chose Andhra only because of a more favourable industrial climate and ecosystem.
Likewise, Anantapur district in Andhra, on the border with Karnataka, is being projected as a manufacturing hub. With real estate expensive in Bengaluru, areas in Anantapur stand to gain, with their proximity to Bengaluru airport. KCR has reportedly reached out to his friends in the JD(S), to point out that if Andhra's lament is addressed, it will be at the expense of Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
This division in the peninsula would be music to the BJP's ears and dents Naidu's attempt to make new friends in the non-BJP political landscape.
Back home in Andhra, no one expects the Centre to quiver at the end of the no-trust debate and grant special status. The people realise the fight is now purely political. While the electorate listens to the MPs today, it will wait for the elections next year to make themselves heard.
Updated Date: Jul 20, 2018 12:39 PM