Andhra Pradesh is heading for a major clash with the Union Government over the denial of special category status to the state.
Andhra's demand behind seeking special status
Special Category Status (SCS):
The National Development Council (NDC), a body of the former Planning Commission decided to grant the SCS to some regions that have historically been at a disadvantage, compared to the rest of the country.
Based on factors such as non-viability of the state’s finances, economic and infrastructure backwardness, hilly and difficult terrain.
Following Jammu & Kashmir which was the first state to get SCS, 10 other states were added with Uttarakhand being the last in 2010.
The states that have been accorded SCS have a lower share in centrally sponsored schemes compared to general category states. Apart from this, excise duty concessions, tax breaks to attract industry to their territory, assistance for externally aided projects being given as 90% grants and special central assistance grants are some other benefits.
AP’s demand for SCS:
With united Andhra Pradesh getting bifurcated in 2014, the demand for special category status came forth with claims of the state being at a disadvantage particularly with the loss of capital Hyderabad to Telangana. To aid the state, the then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told the Rajya Sabha that SCS would be extended to AP for five years but it was changed by the 14th Finance Commission.
Current status on the issue:
Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu recently threatened to walk-out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the wake of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement that the SCS might not be granted to Andhra Pradesh.
Chandrababu asked MPs from his Telugu Desam Party to continue protesting in Parliament till the demand was met and even directed the Union Civil Aviation Minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Minister of State for Science and Technology Y Satyanarayana Chowdary to resign. Apart from them, the BJP ministers in Naidu’s Cabinet in Andhra also have resigned.
While Arun Jaitley assured that the Centre would honour the commitments made to AP in 2014 but the granting of SCS was restricted by the 14th Finance Commission. He, however, said that the government was committed to gran the monetary equivalent of an SCS to the state and would bear 90% of the share of schemes sponsored by the Centre, with Andhra having to pitch in with only 10%.
Telugu Desam has only 16 members in the Lok Sabha and 6 in the Rajya Sabha. If TDP pulls out, the BJP-led government won’t face any threat. Also, with TDP having won 102 of the 175 Assembly seats, the AP government’s stability is not at stake.
The move for SCS is considered to be a political one with Chandrababu’s focus on the 2019 elections.