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NEW DELHI / VIJAYAWADA: Unhappy with finance minister Arun Jaitley’s statement in Parliament on the ‘inadequate’ allocation of funds for Andhra Pradesh, the second in the last few days, TDP president and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu, is reported to have told his party MPs that “the Centre is behaving in such a way that it is making people of AP feel that they are not part of the nation”.
Naidu who is in Dubai, called an emergency tele-conference meeting with the TDP MPs, including the two ministers in the Union Cabinet on Thursday, to discuss the developments and take a call on the future course of action.
TDP sources said they have been pushed to the corner by the BJP leadership. “Naidu directed us to keep up the protest in Parliament on Friday until the demands of the state are met”, Thota Narasimham, TDP floor leader in the Lok Sabha told TOI.
Jaitley’s Parl statement widens rift, CM Naidu keeps alliance guessing
The MPs read out Arun Jaitley’s statement in Parliament to Naidu during the teleconference. Some of the MPs also told Naidu that the TDP should keep up the tough stance towards the Centre. “Naidu told us to protest in a serious way. The CM expressed unhappiness over the response from the Centre over the last 3-4 days,” Narasimham added.
Naidu told the MPs he will do the next round of teleconference with them on Friday. Sources said the TDP will take a firm decision on the future course of action after the outcome of talks between state and central officials on revenue deficit and externally-aided projects.
The gap between TDP and BJP seems to have widened. Some of the MPs, including AP HRD minister Ganta Srinivas Rao, on Thursday said if required, the TDP will walk out of the alliance with NDA, fuelling speculation that the TDP was in a mood to pull out of the ministry.
BJP Vizag MP and state unit president K Haribabu maintained that the TDP will not quit the alliance at this juncture. Sources close to Naidu told TOI that the TDP was very upset with Jaitley’s statement and felt that the state was being given a step-motherly treatment.
BJP sources expressed unhappiness over TDP’s relentless muscle-flexing and said that such brinkmanship can strain the equations. “Each time you concede their demand, they come up with new ones. There is a limit to how much you can do for one state when you are having to deal with expectations from others too.”
BJP sources said they appreciate Naidu’s compulsion to play champion of the interests of his state and that they have tried to accommodate all his concerns to the extent possible. However, they complain that the TDP boss has strained the equations by not taking into account Centre’s problems: fund constraint and the fact that ours is a federal polity. “There is a strong possibility of position hardening on our side as well if he just goes on raising his ante.”
Earlier, as he sought to comfort the TDP lawmakers protesting in Parliament, finance minister Jaitley said the Centre was sympathetic to the demands of AP government and is finalising the details of a fresh package in consultation with the state. He said that officials from the expenditure department and the state government held discussions to work out a solution for funding externally aided projects and on the issue of revenue deficit, on which Naidu had written to the FM.
Without disclosing details, Jaitley said that an arrangement had been worked out and the state officials had gone back and will communicate the decision to the Centre. The statement came amid high drama in the House with Congress members protesting against the FM’s comments on Rafale. TDP members too were in the well, demanding the special package.
Amid the noise, Jaitley said that most elements of the package finalised at the time of bifurcation had already been given to Andhra. “The package involved several aspects, many of which have been implemented. Some of them are work in progress. We have given so far funds as promised for a large number of institutions which are being created because most of the institutions went to the Telangana state,” he said. He said that funds will continue to be given for establishment of those all the institutions He also said that various ministries were discussing the proposals related to railway and petroleum projects, but that did not seem to convince the TDP members. “We will try and do it extremely early. We are extremely sympathetic to the people of AP and would look into each of these issues extremely sympathetically,” he said.
On creation of the Capital, he said the Centre has made some payments for backward districts development and for ambitious Polavaram project through National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development (Nabard) and added ₹4,500 crore has already been paid.