VIJAYAWADA: Acting on instructions from party president and Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, the two TDP ministers in the Central government, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Minister of State for Science and Technology YS Chowdary, submitted their resignations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening. Later, speaking to reporters, the duo said they had resigned in protest against the refusal of the Centre to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh but in the same breath, clarified that they would continue to be a part of the BJP-led NDA.
To queries on their future course of action, Chowdary replied there was still time for the Budget session of Parliament to conclude and claimed the Prime Minister had assured them of the Centre’s continued support to the State.
Their optimism notwithstanding, the rift between the two allies seems too wide to bridge. Their resignations were immediately accepted and significantly, their resignations came just a couple of hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with Chief Minister Naidu. TDP leaders claimed Naidu had explained to him the reasons for his drastic action. Nonetheless, persuasion wasn’t a part of the conversation. It was at best a parting courtesy.
Information and Public Relations Minister Kalava Srinivasulu revealed, after a late evening meeting with Naidu, that the Prime Minister had asked him to hold back resignations and come for talks. According to him, Naidu refused, citing “public sentiments”. In fact, the BJP acted faster after Naidu announced his decision late Wednesday night. The two BJP ministers in the Naidu cabinet, Kamineni Srinivas and Manikyala Rao, submitted their resignation letters to the Chief Minister in the morning itself and headed straight to the nearby Guntur district where the new AIIMS is coming up with Central funding to “highlight how the Centre is helping the State.”
Rao told TNIE, “the State government has several loopholes and is primarily responsible for the delay in executing Central projects. Now that we are no longer in the government, we will expose its true colours.”
It’s more bravado than anything else since the TDP chief, who is under pressure ahead of the elections primarily from Jagan, chief of the main Opposition YSRC, for accepting a special package in lieu of special status to the State, has already painted the saffron party as a traitor to the cause of AP. If his favourite whipping boy in the past was the Congress, the original sinner who divided the State, it is now the BJP and by playing the victim, he hopes to occupy the Opposition space while at the same time, closing the door for any chance of the saffron party aligning with the YSRC. There is simply no other option given Jagan’s ongoing campaign and the much-rumoured tacit understanding between him and the BJP. The latter is one among the main reasons for the trust deficit between the TDP and the BJP, which has also been sceptical and wary of Naidu in view of his political connections across the country and past record.
Of late, Jagan has upped the ante. He has said his MPs will quit on April 6 and vowed to move a no-confidence motion against the Modi government on March 21. Renewing the same on Thursday, he said, “It is now time to mount pressure on the Centre. We are ready to move a no-confidence motion on March 21 and TDP should support us or we are prepared to support the TDP if it decides to move the motion. What is needed is a united fight to achieve our goal of securing special status to the State,” he said. In a way, Naidu’s decision could be seen as a response to Jagan’s dare.
It would be interesting to see what the TDP does when the YSRC serves notice for the no-trust vote. It’s likely that it will give it a pass but continuing in the NDA is untenable. An electoral alliance with actor and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan is surely on the cards. 2019, then, could well see TDP-Jana Sena pitted against the YSRC. The BJP, in stark contrast to 2014, may just be an also ran.