TDP protest

Telugu Desam anger out in the open

Print edition : March 03, 2018

Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s last full Budget may well have triggered the unravelling of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The first to sound the alarm has been the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the BJP’s long-time ally and the party in power in Andhra Pradesh.

Neither party requires the other to keep its government alive, but each has given the other two Cabinet berths, the BJP at the Centre and the TDP in the State, as a goodwill gesture. Two days after the presentation of the Budget, TDP president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu issued a threat to withdraw from the alliance and then went on to ask his MPs to keep up the pressure on the Central government in Parliament for its failure to keep its promises made to the State. The rank and file of the TDP and several of its senior leaders, though, wish to sever ties with the BJP. But Chandrababu Naidu seems to have adopted a wait and watch approach and is likely to make his next move on the basis of the BJP’s performance in the Assembly elections in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland and, more importantly, in Karnataka.

In the debate on the Budget in the Lok Sabha, the TDP’s Jayadev Galla summed up his party’s mood. “There is no mention of Amaravati [Andhra Pradesh’s new capital], Polavaram [the major irrigation project on the Godavari], a railway zone [in Visakhapatnam], the special package for the State, not to mention the other commitments made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act (2014) and assurances made on the floor of the Rajya Sabha by the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Some of your party [BJP] leaders are trying to convince you that somehow your party can grow in Andhra Pradesh by breaking the promises and weakening the Telugu Desam Party. The YSRC [Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Congress party led by Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy] is again trying to fool the people of Andhra Pradesh, shifting the blame from the Centre to the State government and to the TDP. The people of Andhra Pradesh are no fools. They know that the YSRC needs to support whoever is in power in the Centre in order to keep their leader out of jail. Today it may be you, tomorrow it may not.”

Jayadev Galla’s speech, on February 7, came hours before the State’s Finance Secretary met the Union Expenditure Secretary following Jaitley’s assurance, a day earlier, of an “alternative route” of funds for the State. That very night, TDP MPs that Frontline spoke to sounded “hopeful”. Padula Ravindra Babu, from Amalapuram, said, “Jaitley need not have mentioned an alternative route. It in only because he did, we think they have something to offer.” Asked why the party was silent during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reply to the President’s vote of thanks even as their adversary the Congress kept up pressure, he said, “We were protesting till he [Modi] arrived. We went back to our seats only out of respect for him as the Leader of the House.” In his speech, Modi referred to the infamous incident of February 1982, when Rajiv Gandhi, as a Congress general secretary, reprimanded his party Chief Minister, T. Anjaiah, for the “gaudy” reception on the tarmac of the airport in Hyderabad, involving some 200 partymen. Modi said, “…[I]t was Rajiv Gandhi who publicly insulted an elected Dalit Chief Minister when he arrived at the Hyderabad airport. N.T. Rama Rao was born out of this fire of insulting democratic traditions.” Several leaders that Frontline spoke to pointed out that Anjaiah was not a Dalit. Marri Sashidhar Reddy, son of former Congress Chief Minister Channa Reddy, said, “In fact, his real name was Ramakrishna Reddy.”

Andhra Pradesh has received short shrift ever since it was bifurcated. The State has been running on a deficit of over Rs.16,000 crore year on year. Over three years the Centre has given a mere Rs.1,500 crore for the new capital, while the State pegs the amount to meet the requirements in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act alone at over Rs.40,000 crore. Sections 90 to 94 in the Act list the commitments of the Centre to the State, which include funds for the construction of the Legislature, High Court, Secretariat and other allied structures in the core capital area.

The special category status, which the previous United Progressive Alliance government had promised, would ensure that Centrally sponsored schemes and externally aided projects were virtually grants-in-aid. The assistance measures announced on September 6, 2016, and followed up the next year, have not been given legal sanction. Jaitley sanctioned Rs.40,000 crore and Rs.17,000 crore for Mumbai and Bengaluru for the suburban train and metro respectively, but had nothing to offer for Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam. The BJP rules Maharashtra, and Karnataka is going to the polls in four months.

Closing his speech in Parliament, Jayadev Galla said, “They announced the setting up of an AIIMS in Amaravati, the estimated cost of which is Rs.1,618 crore. But so far not a single penny has been allocated. This year some money has been given to various States, but there is no mention of an AIIMS in Andhra Pradesh. Maybe, again, because elections are not coming up in A.P. I have figures for every institution [in A.P.]..., where allocations are minuscule. The overall allocations made to A.P. come to Rs.1,814 crore. It is no exaggeration when I say that the Telugu movie Baahubali’s collections are more than the funds allocated to our State.”

Kunal Shankar

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