SAYING THAT it would “take up the alliance issue at a later date”, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), an ally of the ruling BJP at the Centre, on Sunday decided to step up pressure on the Narendra Modi government by “disrupting Parliament”.
While TDP MPs and leaders expressed their displeasure over the Union Budget 2018-19 at a party meeting in Amaravati, party president and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is learnt to have appealed for calm and restrained them from making any adverse comments.
Earlier, soon after the Budget was presented in Parliament, Naidu expressed his displeasure at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. “I am sticking to the coalition dharma and keeping quiet. I am also restraining my colleagues from speaking out against the BJP. But if they do not want us, I will say namaste and walk away. This is no way to treat a coalition partner,’’ he said.
According to sources, Naidu said the time to send representations, pleas and requests was over, and the party had to take a strong stand against the BJP and the Centre to ensure that the state gets its due allocation, as per the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
Naidu called the meeting of party MPs, senior MLAs and party leaders in Amaravati on Sunday to discuss the Budget and review the party’s alliance with the BJP.
But Kambhampati Rammohan Rao, TDP Central Committee member and the party’s special representative in New Delhi, said they had “decided to take up the TDP-BJP alliance issue at a later date”.
“Right now, we have to focus on why the Centre has not addressed issues like bridging the revenue deficit, hastening funds for Polavaram project, additional funding for Amaravati capital city and new railway zone for Visakhapatnam,” he said, speaking to mediapersons after the meeting.
“The CM has asked the MPs to use all means possible to put pressure on the Centre and highlight our problems, including disrupting Parliament even if they face the possibility of suspension. The CM said he is committed to maintaining the coalition dharma, but the protests for justice for Andhra Pradesh should now be out in the open, rather than just sending requests and appeals. This is the ‘stage one’ strategy. From Tuesday, our MPs will hold placards and protest in Parliament. We will decide what to do next after the Parliament session,’’ he said.
Scotching speculation that the TDP may snap ties with the BJP, party MP and Union Minister of State for Science and Technology Y S Chowdary said: “Don’t talk of divorce, let us talk of marriage only”.
Chowdary said they “would raise all unresolved and pending issues in Parliament and outside’’. He said his party was hopeful of a positive response from the Centre within the next few days, before the first part of the Budget Session ends on February 9.
“The CM has issued some guidelines to party MPs on how to bring to the Centre’s attention to the state, including protesting in Parliament. That is our strategy right now,’’ said Chowdary.
Barring Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, all the remaining 15 TDP MPs attended today’s meeting.
“Not only are the CM and TDP leaders upset with the BJP for ignoring Andhra Pradesh, even the common man knows injustice has been done. The state has lost revenue base post-bifurcation, as Hyderabad has gone to Telangana. It needs hand-holding by the Centre for a few years, till the revenue deficit comes down and the state is up and running,’’ said Kesineni Srinivas, TDP MP from Vijayawada.
Following bifurcation of the state in 2014, TDP leaders have often alleged step-motherly treatment by the Centre in allocation of funds and incentives. While ties between the TDP and BJP deteriorated over the last three years, on issues like special category status for Andhra Pradesh, funding of Polavaram project and Amaravati capital city, the state government had pinned its hopes on the Union Budget this year, especially since it is the last full Budget of the BJP-led government before the 2019 general elections.
The BJP has two MPs and five MLAs in Andhra Pradesh.