Kommineni Srinivasa Rao
Union minister Piyush Goyal unmasked the drama which Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu enacted in the name of Dharma Porata Deeksha. Everyone knows how Chandrababu changed his stance on Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh. At the time of 2014 elections, Chandrababu Naidu demanded special category status for not 10, but 15 years. He also claimed that both he and Narendra Modi shared the same vision of development.
However, once he came to power, Chandrababu forgot all about SCS to the state. Back then, the UPA government passed a cabinet resolution and forwarded it to the Planning Commission. Had Chandrababu Naidu taken up the issue and followed it up, the matter would probably have reached its logical end before the Planning Commission was scrapped.
However, the Planning Commission was replaced by Niti Aayog. Around this time, opposition parties, mainly the YSR Congress party led by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, demanded Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh and staged many protests and Dharnas across the state. Thus, the YSRCP managed to create widespread awareness about SCS in the general public. The Congress and the Left parties also staged protests demanding SCS.
Meanwhile, media reports stated that the 14th Finance Commission was of the view that no state would get SCS in future. At this point, Chandrababu Naidu started speaking against SCS to the state, vocally. Earlier, it was he who in the state assembly, questioned the use of Special Category Status. He asked whether north-eastern states benefited from SCS.
The Centre and the TDP government came to an understanding over a special package instead of Special Category Status. Moreover, one can gauge Chandrababu Naidu’s understanding of SCS from the fact that he wrote a letter seeking Rs.3500 crores per year to the state under special package. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister thanked the Union government profusely and said that the Package was better than SCS. He praised Prime Minister Modi to the skies.
Chandrababu, at that time, threatened students for demanding SCS to the state. Piyush Goyal’s letter makes it explicit that it was Chandrababu Naidu who harmed the interests of Andhra Pradesh with respect to SCS. Moreover, Goyal revealed that it was the Chandrababu government which decided how much Andhra Pradesh should get under special package and that the Central government had no say in this.
Experts say that if Andhra Pradesh had been granted special category status at that time, the state would have benefited to the extent of 40 to 50 crore rupees. Chandrababu instead settled for one third of this amount and wrote to this effect to the central government. He reckoned that this money could be spent in any way that he chooses once the state gets it. This is where things started to go wrong.
When the Central government said that the state government should create a special purpose vehicle for the special package and show under what heads which project would be financed and to what extent overseas funding was needed, Chandrababu received a setback. Else, Chandrababu would have utilised central funds freely and indiscriminately. TDP leaders would have had a field day.
Chandrababu Naidu did not like the idea of the Central government placing these conditions. The movement for SCS meanwhile, was gaining momentum. The YSR Congress party prepared the ground to move a no trust vote against the NDA government in Parliament. Chandrababu Naidu also joined the demand for SCS to the state, perhaps driven by a need to use it as a threat against PM Modi and get more constituencies for the state or by a fear of lagging behind when it comes to the SCS sentiment. Inevitably, he created a distance between the TDP and the BJP.
Starting from that point, Chandrababu began vocal criticism of PM Modi. The BJP tried reiterating that it was Chandrababu who sought a special package, but without much success. But now Piyush Goyal has clearly exposed how Chandrababu Naidu harmed the interests of Andhra Pradesh by releasing the letter the TDP chief wrote. On top of all this, he conducted protests all over the state in the name of Dharma Porata Deeksha at the cost of the tax payer. Crores of rupees were spent for these Deekshas.
It has always been clear to the people of the state as to who stood for special category status. They knew that it was YS Jagan who had been championing the cause of SCS to the state from the very beginning, while Chandrababu Naidu took U-turn after U-turn and pretends to have fought for SCS. Now, Piyush Goyal nailed Chandrababu’s falsehoods effectively.