Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Andhra Pradesh is angry, and here's why

The following article was written for ABP News. Pasting it here for reference:

Rupees 1,78,000 crores. That is the amount Andhra Pradesh will be getting in the next 5 years, after the NDA Government decided to increase the share of the States from 32% to 42%.

The day this was announced, one thought it was a master stroke by the Modi Government – all States would get more money now, and Andhra Pradesh’s demand for massive financial assistance would also be simultaneously met.
Upon tweeting these views, there were quite a few replies from well-meaning folks who expressed their reservations about this amount – every State is getting this extra assistance, what is so special about Andhra Pradesh also getting it? Andhra Pradesh needs actual special assistance that other States will not get, because this is a nascent State with no capital.
The next day morning, regional papers headlined the news like this – “Andhra Pradesh to get Rs 22,000 crores only for revenue deficit”. In addition to the Rs 1,78,000 crores that will accrue to the State, the Government has also allotted an additional Rs 22,000 crores (over the next 5 years) to tide over the revenue deficit.
This amount sounded way too low, because the AP Government was estimating a deficit of Rs 15,000 crores in the first year itself! And more importantly, the entire regional media did not highlight the Rs 1,78,000 crore amount, but highlighted that the only “benefit” AP is getting is a meagre Rs 22,000 crores!

And that’s when the penny dropped: The people of AP are very serious about the Special Category Status that was promised to them by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the floor of the Rajya Sabha. The support that will be given to AP must be unique, and not be clubbed with any other State.
The hastened bifurcation process that the UPA Government completed in the fag-end of their tenure has left Andhra Pradesh in tatters. For any contentious thing, the only solution they gave was that it can be decided in the next 10 years (common capital, common entrance exams, common High Court etc).
It is to the credit of the State Governments that they have evolved separate systems for entrance exams; it is to the credit of the Andhra Pradesh Government that it has begun to function from the new capital Amaravati, but we are side-stepping the issue here.
Due to this hastened process, the people of Andhra Pradesh felt cheated, and to assuage their feelings, some key promises were made in the Act – studying the feasibility of establishing a new railway zone; Hyderabad as common capital for 10 years; establishing of national institutions (educational, health, industries); funding entirely the Polavaram irrigation project, etc.
But the biggest of all the demands was granting of a special category status. And this was not included in the Bill that was passed in the Lok Sabha. And since the support of BJP was required to pass this in the Rajya Sabha, the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, made a statement on the floor of the house that the Central Government would grant this status.
However, this promise was not included in the bifurcation Act, because of political machinations during the Lok Sabha vote. The demand and the subsequent acceptance of the demand only happened in the Rajya Sabha.
Venkaih Naidu had also voiceforeously argued that the status should be granted for 10 years and not five. Given the urgency with which the UPA was rushing through the Act, it didn’t want to go to the Lok Sabha again. The BJP also agreed to this compromise of not including this in the act, but taking the Prime Minister’s word at face value.
However, after coming to power, the NDA Government has shown a lot of reluctance in granting this status to Andhra Pradesh, while it has shown due diligence on various aspects of the bifurcation Act. This has become a rallying point for the opposition parties in the State, especially the badly damaged Congress!
The Central Government argues that the current definition of special category, by the Finance Commission, doesn’t allow them to grant Andhra Pradesh this status. Andhra Pradesh argues that their case is indeed special, and exceptions will have to be made. The Chief Minister has himself acknowledged that the help he has received so far from the Centre has helped him, but has also indicated that he needs more.
In every Parliament session this issue is bought up by one party or the other. And then it snowballs into a big issue in the State, with all parties blaming each other for not being able to get the special status. The TDP blames the Congress for framing a deeply flawed Act; the Congress (and YSRCP) claims that special category status is the panacea of all ills of the State!
Even the monsoon session saw considerable number of hours dedicated to this issue in both Houses and the replies by Arun Jaitley angered the media and people in AP.
There are a lot of statistics that are put across by both supporters of the BJP (citing the various fulfilled promises as made in the bifurcation Act) and the TDP (citing various unfulfilled promises made in the Act and in the Rajya Sabha).
However , this debate has far moved away from factual arguments. The issue is emotional now, and needs to be treated as one.
The two key areas where the people of Andhra Pradesh are very keen to see an urgent solution is the establishment of a new railway zone in the State (as mentioned in the bifurcation Act), and the granting of special status to the State.
Suresh Prabhu was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha from Andhra Pradesh, and people are hopeful of the new railway zone (after all, it’s all give and take in politics).
The perception that the Modi Government is “ignoring” the State only because of the railway zone and special category Status has gained strong ground. The challenge before the Central and State Governments is huge now – the mess created by the Congress will take long to resolve.


Post a Comment