HYDERABAD: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu is reasonably confident that the residuary State will be accorded special category status by the Centre notwithstanding the difficulties involved in the process.
“It was a promise made on the floor of Parliament by no less a person than the then prime minister and representatives of almost all the parties were present in the House at the time. Though this particular aspect (special category status) was not part of the AP Reorganisation Act, almost everyone felt it was required given the difficulties AP would face in the wake of bifurcation of the State. It is only in the fitness of things that it should be honoured,” Naidu said in an informal meeting with newspaper editors on the occasion of his completing 100 days in office here Monday.
The Chief Minister pointed out that during one of his meetings with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the latter recalled that it was the BJP which had demanded special category status and therefore, should do everything possible to meet the commitment. What was included in the Act was a special package for seven of the 13 districts in Andhra Pradesh, which are perceived as backward. But a special category status would bring with it substantial tax concessions and Central assistance in the form of grants.
Naidu, however, refused to be drawn into a controversy when his attention was drawn to a letter written by his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa to the Centre arguing against according special category status to Andhra Pradesh or any other State unless they meet the parameters fixed for the purpose. “I don’t want to comment but I wish everyone respects the commitment made in Parliament,” he said. Throughout the two-hour long conversation, the Chief Minister not only appeared relaxed but also laced his comments with wit and humour.
When the Express representative sought to know when he would have a luncheon meeting with his Telangana counterpart KCR again, his reply was: “Why don’t you mediate and fix the meeting? I am open to meeting him anytime and any number of times when it comes to the resolution of common issues.” Naidu, however, conceded that the initial rancour that prevailed between the two States has given way to a better relationship after the meeting between him and KCR a fortnight ago. “Of course, there still remain some pinpricks in respect of sharing of employees and other issues. The Chief Secretaries of the two States are talking constantly to sort out the matters,” he said. While steps were afoot to ensure 24/7 power supply in AP, Naidu reiterated his commitment to supply surplus power to Telangana whenever feasible.
Despite persistent queries, he refused to divulge the exact location of the capital for AP on the ground that reports in the media were only complicating matters. The Chief Minister assured that the transition would be done in such a manner that it satisfies all sections of people including the employees. On the question of loan waiver to farmers, he stuck to the stated line: “I will do my best to keep my promise despite financial crunch.” He announced Oct 2 as the day when the AP government would implement the revised pension scheme for the aged under which financial assistance per month will be hiked from `200 to `1,000. The enlarged NTR Aarogya Seva Scheme will also be launched the same day.