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Centre’s intransigence

Centre’s intransigence
Highlights

The Special Package and the Special Status have become the domineering discourses in Andhra Pradesh politics now-a-days. The two have become the centrifugal forces of all political activity, with the emphasis, however, being on the Special Status.

The Special Package and the Special Status have become the domineering discourses in Andhra Pradesh politics now-a-days. The two have become the centrifugal forces of all political activity, with the emphasis, however, being on the Special Status.

As the political heat began rising, AP Chief Minister, N Chandrababu Naidu, sprinted to New Delhi to seek an assurance from the Prime Minister himself on the "sentimental issue" of Special Status which was inherent to the demand of his Special Package in the backdrop of the recent Bihar assistance.

The State is unequivocal in its demand for both Special Status and Special Package. But, the Centre only deftly deflected the ball into the NITI Aayog court without mincing words when it declared that the "Aayog will draw the road map of assistance expeditiously to fulfil all promises contained in the AP Reorganisation Act.”

That was Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaking. He categorically explained further on Tuesday – in the presence of Naidu: “Call it Special Status or Special Package. It all means assistance. The State was promised assistance in every possible way during the bifurcation. It is its right to seek. The substance of any of these demands is economic assistance. It shall be given.”

That is prudence speaking. The impression that Naidu gave later, while extending the dialogue in the absence of Jaitley, was that he had yielded political ground, giving rise to the scope for his opponents to sharpen their knives further. No doubt, Naidu put his best foot forward in defending the Centre and its promise (?) in arguing that AP needed the assistance "in whatever form or nomenclature" more than any in competing with the neighbouring States.

But, such propitious talk cannot satisfy the appetite for central assistance among the people of Andhra Pradesh who feel terribly let down by politics of bifurcation and after. The adverse political arithmetic stares at Andhra Pradesh. The BJP does not find TDP’s support indispensable to travel a few extra miles to translate a promise into a reality.

It has little or no political stakes in Andhra Pradesh, while it has larger political interests in states that compete with Andhra Pradesh for the Special Status. But, such political calculations cannot hold the assurance given to Andhra Pradesh to ransom. It would be a travesty of justice to deny a State whose existence in the post bifurcation period is predicated on such assurances only.

The Niti Aayog was not asked to define a road map for Bihar. Why should it be so for Andhra Pradesh for which Special Status and Special Package are a constitutional and political right? The Finance Minister was trying hard to defend the Centre’s intransigence when he says the assurances to Andhra Pradesh would have to be reconciled with the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.

But, did this constitutional body recommend any such political bonanza for Bihar? Why should the recommendations of this Commission come in the way of implementing the assurances given during the bifurcation of the State?

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