During a brisk 5-km walk between Chilakaluripeta and Narasaraopet along State Highway 45, the YSRCP leader talks about Naidu’s “failed promises”, KCR’s third front proposal, and why he wants action on his special status demand, “not just promises”:
Why has special category status become so important now? You have never raised this issue so strongly before.
Who will take it up, if not me? If not now, when will we protest for special status? This has become an emotional and sentimental issue among the people of Andhra Pradesh. I have raised this issue several times but (Chief Minister) Chandrababu Naidu did nothing. Only special status will help the state overcome the severe financial and resource crunch it has been facing after bifurcation. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced peanuts as a special assitance package and Naidu welcomed it as if the state was being granted huge amounts of funds and incentives. On March 12, 2014, it was assured to us on the floor of the Rajya Sabha that AP would be given special category status for at least five years. What was Naidu doing?
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I am taking this up because the TDP is not doing it, it has totally given up on the demand. Naidu has lied and cheated people on every issue, including special status and farm loan waiver. He promised to waive off over Rs 87,000 crore of farm loans, but has only paid Rs 4,000 crore per annum in four years. There is agrarian distress in AP — farmers are not getting minimum support prices and the sowing area in AP is decreasing every year. Naidu is doing nothing about any of these issues.
But the Centre says there is no provision for Special Category Status.
The Centre is making excuses because the BJP thinks if it (the status) is granted to AP, others like Bihar will make the same demand. When the UPA can pass the AP Reorganisation Bill by switching off cameras and closing the doors of Parliament — which the BJP supported then — why can’t the BJP give us special status now?
What makes you think special status would be better than the special assistance package that the Centre offered?
Special status will provide AP a level playing field to compete with other states. With such a status, industry will get special incentives — 100 per cent IT and GST exemption, and rebates on power consumption. If AP wants to attract IT and software industry, healthcare infrastructure and hospitality industry, it has to offer these incentives.
What do you think of the third front proposed by Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao? Will you join it, if necessary?
I don’t know what the third front is about. And I don’t need to join any front or alliance. I don’t trust anyone. They will say something now and backtrack later. I will support any party that signs on a paper granting special category status to AP. No more promises. Just sign and I will support.
Any party? Even the Congress? You fell out with the party.
Like I said, in the interest of the state, I will support any party that gives us special category. It doesn’t matter if it is the Congress, although I don’t see it coming in the next election. I think if all 25 Andhra MPs resign, it would force the BJP to do something about our demand.