“We expected the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to address the concerns of AP in his address today, but he did not. We felt deceived by him once again," was the refrain of AP MPs on Wednesday. That was quite disappointing, because, the MPs' sounded naive.
The Prime Minister stood up to reply in the Lok Sabha to the motion of thanks on President's address and he confined himself to the job on hand. He was there to speak up for his Budget and to defend it. He was not speaking to criticise it.
It is not that Modi ignored the criticism of the AP MPs and the high political drama that ensued following the Budget presentation. He also was aware of the media leaks that had followed and the views of his Southern ally. But Modi, above all, was aware of the "politics" behind it all.
But being a past master in the art of 'politicising' too and perhaps of a higher order than AP Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu. He did address the concerns of AP in his own style. One only has to read between the lines.
Did not Modi criticise the Opposition over bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh? He did, in maintaining that it did so only for "political" considerations without any preparation for which the people are facing hardships. "When we speak about creating new states, we remember the manner in which Atal Bihari Vajpayee created Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. He showed how far sighted decision-making is done," the Prime Minister said amidst protests by Congress members who shouted slogans seeking justice for Andhra Pradesh.
Modi said whenever his government was criticised by select opposition parties, substance was lacking in their arguments as they would go back to saying – "when we were in power". Pause. One could go through these lines carefully and to understand what Modi was conveying to AP lawmakers 'disturbing' the House for the last few days.
Modi did refer to the 'criticism' of Opposition only to add that such allegations were lacking in substance. TDP, after all, is an ally and he did not want to name and shame them in the process of taking on his main adversaries. Moreover, the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, had once again reiterated in the
Rajya Sabha that the Centre was doing everything that should be done for the State.
Telugu Desam Party was bracketed in this category of 'select opposition parties' whose arguments and claims lacked substance. If one refuses to see this or understand, then it is either deliberate or sheer stupidity.
Moreover, the BJP circles here are least perturbed over the TDP stance of late. "We were married earlier and divorced and got together again. We know our strengths and weaknesses well,” they repeat off the record. As for Modi and Amit Shah, they are also aware of Naidu's compulsions, both electoral and political.
Modi has already answered the TDP criticism several times and in several ways. For the last four-and-a-half-years, the Centre had obliged AP in every which way. The BJP feels it has fulfilled the promise of hand-holding given the constraints of the Finance Commission.
Senior BJP leaders point out that the major – most major rather they say – demand was handing over the execution of the Polavaram Project '100 per cent' to the State government. "It was as good as asking us to shut up tight and just make room for them. Yet, we did it though we knew why they are seeking it," they add.
The cost escalation of the Polavaram project was 'allowed,' the BJP leaders point out. The abnormal 'Relief and Rehabilitation' package too has not been criticised politically. "It is also being sorted out amicably," the BJP sources say.
"Whether or not the Polavaram will be the lifeline of AP, we know for sure that it is the lifeline for TDP leadership which is heavily banking on it for several reasons. Only when it came to the crunch, the Centre had to insist on changing the principal contractor who turned out to be 'just an arrangement' to manage the Polavaram works. We also know how they agreed to change the contractor without escalating the cost and then going in for some other arrangements to benefit him. They have no case, hence," the BJP higher brass brazens it out.
That should ring a cautionary bell for the TDP. They cannot stretch their argument and protests too far. At the most, till the Opposition bandh in AP passes off.
Politically speaking, the BJP does not view the TDP protests seriously enough to merit any attention to it. "Naidu is an old hand at it. He is under pressure to deliver and deliver fast. His capital has not come up and will not, in near future. Polavaram has been delayed for too long. AP has turned into a 'thousands of crores of a State' where nothing ordinary or normal happens. Even the Godavari-Penna link involves an initial estimate of near about Rs 90,000 crore,” avers the BJP leadership.
Coming to the charge that Modi converted the occasion to deliver an electoral speech which ought not to have been done, this does not hold water. This becomes an invalid argument because, the August House has for long witnessed the politicisation of proceedings.
In this era of direct telecast, every one of the lawmakers seems to be addressing his or her constituency out there.
Narendra Modi too had the larger picture in mind in taking on the Congress rather than looking at the nick-nacks and click-clacks or paddywhack. This is an election year, too. Modi was sounding out his own party leaders and cadres to ask them to be vociferous in explaining what the party has done to the country in the last four years or so. He did not see the honourable Chair in the House nor the member colleagues. He was addressing the nation...rather!