Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu is an angry man now. Spurned by the Central government on his request for Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh, he has raised the banner of revolt.
This is not an unexpected gambit from someone who places great thrust on economics, but the move does raise the questions: Is it actually the politics of economics in play?
Righteous indignation or pure politics?
The big question now is whether the bogey raised by him against the Centre is righteous indignation or pure politics. On the face of it, or for the sake of public understanding, it appears as a fight for special treatment that was promised to the truncated Andhra Pradesh. But, there is more to it than meets the eye.
The BJP has refused to give anything he wanted for the state. The sops announced in the first six months of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime mollified Naidu to some extent, even as the Centre dragged feet on the conferment of Special Category Status (SCS) promised by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
And now things have come to such a pass that the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is pulling out two of its ministers in the Union Cabinet and is charging the Government with failing to adhere to the demand of Special Category Status to the State. The status enables a state to get 90 percent of grants from the Centre for the centrally-sponsored projects and programs.
Is the TDP cagey about its popular support base and therefore insulating itself from a BJP onslaught?
It looks as much. Chandrababu Naidu was the first chief minister to sing paeans to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetization move. Even the Goods and Services Tax (GST) had the full backing of the TDP.
Political correctness apart, what seems to have driven a wedge within the TDP-BJP relations is the trust deficit. The special package that offers benefits equivalent to the SCS was proposed and announced by Arun Jaitley a couple of years ago. However, nothing seemed working in favor of Naidu.
Today, standing on the threshold of general elections, Naidu has nothing to showcase to the people of Andhra Pradesh who, the TDP keeps on claiming, "reposed faith in Naidu's experience" and elected him. The experience which people believed would come in handy for the state to rebuild.
The TDP had won the elections with the support extended by movie actor Pawan Kalyan. His huge fan following has, however, dissipated to some extent by now. The partnership with the BJP is a different story. The Opposition YSR Congress did indeed give a very tough fight to the TDP in the polls.
Did BJP beat Naidu to it?
Meanwhile, the BJP central leadership didn't seem to take the tantrums thrown by the TDP kindly. Without saying anything in so many words, it withdrew two of its ministers in the Chandrababu Naidu Cabinet in Andhra Pradesh even before the TDP's ministers could tender their resignations.
The chief reason for Naidu's consternation is that he could not create anything tangible to showcase as an election mascot. As if to lampoon the TDP's wishes, Modi, who had laid the foundation stone for the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati, gifted a pail of earth collected from the Parliament complex premises and another pot of Yamuna water, to AP two years ago.
Naidu's speech on the motion of thanks to the Governor's address to the budget session of the Assembly on Wednesday was punctuated with the circumstances leading to the bifurcation and how the residuary Andhra Pradesh has been facing a hardship.
What about the investments?
The three Partnership Summits, jointly sponsored by the CII and the Government of Andhra Pradesh in the last three years, claimed to have generated a commitment of close to Rs 19 lakh crore in investments to the State. The BJP will surely impale this claim and allege that the 'false propaganda' did the state in.
It may be too much to dub Naidu as a cry-baby, but he surely drew the national attention by his amplified campaign that the BJP went back on its poll promise and that it had defied "coalition dharma".
Arun Jaitley, however, was a tad derisive when he said funds wouldn't flow to honor sentiments and that the Government of India had to treat all 29 states equally. He said the Centre was ready to assist AP with special package equivalent to the benefits that would have accrued to the state in the event of it getting an SCS.
The AP Government had agreed to the Special Package offered by the Centre after the 14th Finance Commission said that the SCS could not be granted to any state and revenue deficit could be compensated. Naidu kept on saying that "SCS is not a panacea" and that the "SCS is a closed chapter".
Did Modi deceive Naidu?
Whether the BJP acknowledges it or not, it was Chandrababu Naidu who was the first politician to come forth to endorse the leadership of Narendra Modi, who was anointed as the Prime Ministerial candidate by the BJP. It was only after Naidu lent the "credible support" that other parties too fell in line.
The BJP's disgust with Naidu had its own local political reasons, but it did not erupt in the open as its ministers are part of Naidu government in the state. Fielding TDP candidates against the BJP nominees in some local body polls, demolition of some 30 temples in Vijayawada and Naidu's somersault on demonetization, GST and such other issues added fuel to the fire.
However, it seems Naidu, after seeing that the Modi magic has disappeared, was seeking an opportune moment to snap ties with the 'white elephant'.
[A Saye Sekhar is a senior journalist based out of Hyderabad. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his and do not reflect that of IBT]