The BJP has raised the curtain on a new game of politics – saying one thing and doing exactly the opposite. It has shed even the pretense of arguing that it is sticking to its guns when it comes to its approach to key issues.
Guided by expediency, not principles
The Union Home Ministry contended that creation of Railway Zone with Visakhapatnam as its headquarters will not be viable economically, indicating that it would remain a pie-in-the-sky forever. But Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said categorically that the Centre was committed to delivering the Railway Zone for AP with Vizag as its headquarters, come what may.
Not very long ago, the Centre had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the same petition that the location of a steel plant in Kadapa district was not economically viable. But the government had been saying that it was bent on locating one, despite the fact that SAIL, which did a survey, had said that it was a loss-making proposition and, therefore, its sustainability is in doubt.
After the Telugu Desam Party broke away from the BJP and stepped out of NDA altogether, the saffron party has shed even the fig leaf that it was wearing when it comes to saying that it would not honour commitments of the Centre to the state.
The affidavit that the Centre had filed on Saturday with the apex court had one too many issues that would make the people of AP seethe. Apart from saying no to railway zone, the Centre said that it was yet to make a legislation for creation of Tribal University in AP, and that it had not invested anything so far on Visakhapatnam Chennai Industrial Corridor, and that the state would have to come up with resources for viability gap funding for greenfield petrochemical complex at Kakinada and finally asserting that there was no need for division of institutions in Schedule X of the AP Reorganisation Act.
Everyone has already sung a requiem for the special category status (SCS). But the TDP and the YSRC have been demanding it, as an act of mere show-boating, though they also know it is a dead horse and no amount of flogging would be of any use. The louder the state sought SCS, the firmer the BJP had made its resolve not deliver it.
If it is a sentiment for the people to demand it, it is a prestige issue for the saffron leaders to deny it. Tongue in cheek, Rajnath Singh stated in Parliament recently: “Why do you keep asking for SCS? Has not it become clear to you by now (that we will not grant it)?” The seeds for this trend of making a promise and going back on it openly and unabashedly were sown in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
At the time of the passage of the bill for dividing the state, M Venkaiah Naidu, who was in Opposition then, had sought special category status for 10 years when the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offered it for five years.
Then on, Narendra Modi, in his anxiety to help his ally Naidu mop up as many Lok Sabha seats as possible, promised the SCS, but now he himself says he cannot keep the promise. After a prolonged cloak-and-dagger game for about two years, the Centre comes forward with package and claims that it would end all the ills of the state. But it proved to be a dud, a second glaring case of the BJP saying something and doing exactly the opposite. The list goes ad infinitum and ad nauseum.
But the two issues – the location of a steel plant in Kadapa district and railway zone with headquarters at Visakhapatnam – have become emotive issues though the Centre had shown thumbs down for seaport at Dugarajapatnam in Nellore district. When Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu the took up steel plant issue and Rajya Sabha member CM Ramesh went on a hunger strike, the Centre, then, said that it was in favour of location of the steel plant but simultaneously it filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, stating that steel plant at Kadapa was not economically feasible.
But the refusal to locate Railway Zone at Visakhapatnam, taking shelter under a survey report that it is not feasible, exposed the yellow streak in the saffron party. It is widely believed that the Centre does not want the creation of the zone since it would have to hive off Waltair Division, the cash cow which earns Rs 7,800 crore per annum for East Coast Zone, and make it part of the new zone.
The BJP is not ready to do this since it might ruffle the feathers of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at a time when anti-incumbency wave against the BJP government at the Centre is understood to be peaking. In politics, it is always prudent not to shut doors on anyone since no one knows whose support one would need when the day of reckoning arrives.
In fact, officials had plan B also ready – emasculating Waltair division – and clubbing the refuse with new zone while retaining the juicy part, which constitutes 90 per cent of the railway network, with East Coast Zone.
The Centre does not seem to be ready to do even this as this time it is keeping an eye on seats from other states, in case it suffers a major blow in the north in its strongholds. Though Naidu had left BJP company, the BJP has another formation YSRC-Pawan combo ready to fill the void. In this charade of saffron politics to retain power at the Centre after elections in 2019, the interests of the state are taking a hard knock.