For Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, Krishna Pushkaram has come as a blessing in disguise. It has given him the much-needed reprieve from the searing allegations by the Opposition YSRC and the Congress that he had failed in securing special category status for Andhra Pradesh, a demand which they have successfully converted into a public sentiment.
Till August 12, when Pushkaram began, Naidu was being impaled on the horns of a dilemma on how to wriggle out of the mess created by the increasing clamour for special category status and the Centre’s nonchalant attitude. Now everything is coming back to square one as Pushkaram is going to end on Tuesday.
The Rs 1,976 crore released by the Centre a couple of days ago was more like a crumb to the state. Naidu is understandably upset and it has given Opposition parties a stick to beat him with, saying he should take a more aggressive attitude to secure what is due to the state. It’s pertinent to note that when Congress president Sonia Gandhi decided to gift Telangana to the people, she thought the people would be grateful to her and elect her party. But it was the TRS which walked away with the cake because the party had fought for Telangana.
Perhaps, drawing a lesson, the BJP, understandably, is not very gung-ho about granting special category status as it would not get anything in return. In the first place, it has no stakes in Andhra Pradesh.
With the help of the TDP, it could win only four Assembly and two Lok Sabha seats in the last elections. The risk-reward ratio, thus, is not in favour of the BJP. If it has to give special category status, it will have to find a way to deal with other states waiting to voice similar demands. Why take so much risk for a state where it has no presence?
As far as Naidu is concerned, he is identified with the BJP, his political ally; and the credit for getting special category status would only go to Opposition parties since they had managed to create an impression that he was not averse to accepting a package in lieu of special status.
Naidu’s position is unenviable. He could not take the bull by the horn and demand special category status because it wouldn’t help him in any way as Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t need his MPs. If he does, he may get even less for his capital project and the vote spinner Polavaram project, among others. But, he can’t remain a mute spectator to the Centre’s stoic silence on the issue in the face of the YSRC going full throttle against his government, and the Congress, which was dead as a dodo, showing signs of life after its member K V P Ramachandra Rao moved a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha.
For Naidu, who has a razor sharp mind, it was not difficult to understand the shifting political quicksand. Hence, he raised the pitch by several notches demanding special category status.
He called a media conference and voiced deep anguish over Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement in Parliament that just because the TDP was the BJP’s ally, he couldn’t go out of the way to benefit it.With the Congress and the YSRC going for the BJP and his jugular, Naidu asked his MPs to stage protests which helped him meet Modi in Delhi, where he gave the Prime Minister a wish list.
But the answer was not categorical. It was along the lines of “we are examining how best we can help the state and if special category status can’t be granted, all care would be taken to ensure that the benefit that would eventually be given would be better than what the status would have brought”.
But the gravy train is going to halt on Tuesday when Pushkaram ends and the special category status issue takes centre-stage again. This time, it will have more force since the Centre has released just Rs 1,976 crore for the state. And, Naidu did not hide his displeasure.
“This is a pittance. The Centre hasn’t made it clear whether it is the entire sum released for the current financial year or for the first quarter. There is no clarity,” Naidu said, pointing out that it was miniscule if it was for the entire year.
Naidu’s predicament is not difficult to understand. He should appear as though he is fighting for special category status but at the same time, should not hurt the BJP.
That means he has to exert pressure to the extent that the BJP notices but at the same time, it should not hurt the saffron party. As Naidu struggles to do the trapeze act, quiet flows the Krishna with a look of amusement on her face.
R Prithvi Raj
Assistant Resident Editor