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The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in June 2014, just ahead of the general elections, decimated the Congress in the residuary state of AP and newly created state of Telangana. The Congress did not win a single Assembly or Lok Sabha seat in AP while it performed poorly in Telangana, although the UPA created the new state.
While UPA promised in Parliament when the AP Reorganisation Bill 2014 was passed creating Telangana, that special category status would be given to AP, the new NDA Government has not fulfilled that promise, instead allocating special funds for backward districts and additional funds for building the new capital city Amaravati. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has told the state government that rather than giving special status, allocating funds for backward districts and other purposes was a much better strategy. Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu recently said that the Rs 1,500 crores that the Centre allocated for Amaravati would barely cover the cost of underground cabling of high tension power lines, and OFC in the capital.
While the Telugu Desam Party Government was given a cold shoulder by the Centre over the issue of special category status, the Congress has now seen a chance to regain some lost ground in AP by raising the issue; most importantly be seen as fighting for Andhra people. The main Opposition party YSR Congress Party has made half-hearted attempts to raise the issue with the Centre.
In Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is an ally of the TDP and therefore its MPs have not been very assertive or vocal in their demand for special status for AP in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha. This is clearly seen as a disadvantage by the Congress but it did not take on the Centre till now. With the BJP’s setbacks in Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Congress is more confident of taking on the ruling party over the special status to Andhra Pradesh. The private member’s Bill for grant of special status to AP and a special package was moved by Congress RS MP KVP Ramachandra Rao, a former loyalist and advisor to late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy. Although, Rao hails from AP he was allotted to Telangana after the bifurcation under the draw of lots. Although, it would be a tricky situation, the TDP has quietly agreed to support the Congress in case the Bill moved by Rao is taken up for discussion. The CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury and SP have also supported the Andhra Bill.
Rao said Tuesday that when the AP Reorganisation Bill 2014 was taken up for discussion in Parliament in February 2014, then PM Dr Manmohan Singh gave an assurance that the residuary state of AP would be given special category status. “The NDA did not fulfill that assurance we gave and also has not implemented the AP Reorganisation Act properly in the last two years. We moved the private member’s Bill on this issue but the when it was to be taken up for discussion the BJP created a ruckus and it was not taken up,’’ Rao said.