The people of Andhra Pradesh and their representatives aren’t being taken seriously.
The Telugu people have been divided by the Congress and the BJP together. The move to divide the state was opposed by the people of Andhra Pradesh and supported by those of Telangana. It was a completely politically motivated decision because both the BJP and the Congress thought the bifurcation would allow them to claim the chief minister’s post and return to power in Telangana. That was always their incentive.
Even as a Congress state cabinet minister, I opposed the division. We have always fought for a united Andhra Pradesh. After the bifurcation, we were told, we would be granted special status and special incentives for industries. Telangana is a rich area with surplus revenue. Andhra is a poor area with a revenue deficit. There is no parity in how both states are being treated. We were promised a railway zone in Visakhapatnam, steel plant in Rayalaseema, central educational institutions, compensation for the revenue deficit, rapid road connectivity, and many other incentives. A few of these have materialised.
All the promises were made in the Rajya Sabha in 2014 during the passage of the AP Reorganisation Act. The BJP was in opposition at the time and endorsed all the promises.
After the general elections, the BJP formed the government at the Centre along with NDA allies and the TDP, in alliance with the BJP, in Andhra. Immediately afterwards, the BJP forgot the commitments made to Andhra Pradesh on the floor of Parliament and outside it. We were made to go from pillar to post for the fulfilment of the commitments made by the government of India.
Almost four years have passed, but major commitments have either not been taken up or refused. The government is continuously testing the patience of the people of Andhra Pradesh.
For four years, the BJP has deferred this conversation. We are at the edge of our tether. It isn’t fair to the people of Andhra Pradesh. The government has given out several crores for projects in Karnataka and Maharashtra. Do the people of Andhra Pradesh not deserve such help? Karnataka and Maharashtra have no financial crunch. Ironically, in Parliament, the government had committed to provide these funds to Andhra Pradesh.
The finance minister this week cited the report of the 14th finance commission to say that Andhra Pradesh could not be accorded special status. The commission had said no more states should be added to the category, and the FM stated that the constitutional body’s no ruled out the prospect for Andhra Pradesh. But the Constitution has been amended so many times. Why can’t that be a possible route in case of Andhra Pradesh? Moreover, even if Andhra can’t be accorded special status, it can at least be given funds to meet its needs.
After the TDP took up the special status demand with the Centre several times, they said, instead of special status, Andhra’s losses could be compensated via special grants. But even this has not happened.
As for the incentives promised for industries, the Centre has now refused them outright, except for giving some special depreciations. This is anyway given to all the backward districts across the country.
The finance minister said this week that Andhra Pradesh was better off than Bihar and some other backward states. This is why the government is deferring a few of its commitments to Andhra Pradesh. However, a more realistic comparison for Andhra would be with Telangana, which received the rich areas in the merciless bifurcation that left the former with a revenue deficit.
The people of Andhra Pradesh and their representatives aren’t being taken seriously. We have decided on a three-step approach — protests in Parliament was the first, and the resignation of TDP ministers from the central government the second. If the Centre still doesn’t factor in our grievances, as the last step, the alliance will be broken.
The BJP has to take us seriously and make good on their promises.
T.G. Venkatesh represents the TDP in the Rajya Sabha
(As told to Deeksha Bhardwaj)