The politics of Andhra Pradesh tiptoes around an issue, special category status, about which the truth cannot be told. Multiple authorities, including the Niti Aayog and several Union ministers, have thrown broad hints that granting the privilege to Andhra Pradesh is not possible, but stopped just short of explicitly saying so.
Even if the political intent were there, special category status for Andhra Pradesh is a legislative stretch. Eleven states have so far been given such treatment — the likes of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram — but the criteria for such a measure clearly do not fit Andhra Pradesh, even if we grant that the state is finding it difficult to mobilise resources for development and has been cast into a parlous state not by its own deeds but by acts elsewhere.
And even if such a legislation were bulldozed through the thicket of rules, it would be stopped dead in the National Development Council, in which several states are themselves desirous of the status. So why not say so? Because the promise was made in Parliament by the then PM, Manmohan Singh. This then is the Catch-22 conundrum: The promise would have to be fulfilled because it was made in Parliament, the maker of laws, but it cannot be fulfilled because legislative mandates do not allow it.
So why won’t the Centre take the detour that Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu suggests: special funding for the state’s backward districts and for the new capital, timely payment of bills for the Polavaram project, and expeditious bridging of Andhra’s yawning revenue deficit? Instead, the Centre sends out small money orders such as the Rs 100 crore it sent last week to Amaravati towards expenditure incurred for the Polavaram project.
To the state government’s protests that this is peanuts, Delhi replies it was all that was promised. This disingenuous response begs the Catch-22 question again: then what about the special promise?