AP politics
Special Category Status back at centre stage as Andhra Pradesh polls draw nearIANS

With a few weeks to go for simultaneous polls to Andhra Pradesh Assembly and Lok Sabha, the issue of Special Category Status (SCS) is back at the centre stage of state politics.

Ruling Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP) is under pressure from the opposition for failing to deliver on its promise despite the landslide victory in the 2019 elections. Five years after YSRCP made SCS a major issue to target then ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the former is now facing the same situation.

As both TDP and YSRCP failed to get the Special Category Status, AP Congress chief Y.S. Sharmila has pushed the issue to the forth in the upcomng Assembly elections and sought the ruling YSRCP to pass a resolution first in the Assembly.

Sharmila said both the parties also failed in the development of Amaravati as a capital city and in the time-bound execution of the Polavaram irrigation project, while addressing party supporters after assuming charge as PCC chief earlier this month. 

What's Special Category Status?

The Special Category Status has been dominating the state politics of Andhra Pradesh ever since the bifurcation in 2014. In fact, this issue has led to coalition partners parting ways a few years ago.

At the time of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the then UPA government at the Centre had promised in the Parliament that SCS will be conferred on the residuary state. In 2014 elections, the BJP had promised to confer SCS, which entitles a state to vast financial assistance and tax rebates from the Centre.

The BJP had then contested the polls in alliance with TDP and Jana Sena leader and actor Pawan Kalyan had campaigned for the combine.

However, two years after coming to power, the BJP made it clear that SCS can't be conferred as it was following new stricter guidelines about financial assistance to states. It instead offered a special package to Andhra Pradesh.

Angry over this, Pawan Kalyan snapped ties with BJP and slammed the TDP for what he called accepting "stale laddus" offered by the Centre.

Pawan Kalyan's U-turn

In 2018, the TDP too also parted ways with BJP for going back on the promise of SCS as then opposition party YSRCP had stepped up the pressure for failing to coax the Centre to accord the SCS.

YSRCP, which came to power in 2019 with a landslide victory, also won 22 out of 25 Lok Sabha seats from the state. However, with the BJP-led NDA enjoying majority in the Parliament, it could not mount the pressure.

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy came under attack from political opponents for failing to extract an assurance from the Centre in lieu of the support extended for passing key Bills in the Parliament and also the support for NDA candidates for the elections of President and Vice-President.

Since Jana Sena revived its alliance with the BJP after the drubbing in 2019 elections and TDP also looking to join hands with the saffron party once again, they failed to mount pressure on YSRCP.

YSRCP's Stand

Political observers say Jagan Mohan Reddy never went beyond requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his meetings to accord SCS.

In 2022, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, during Andhra Pradesh leg of his 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', had stated that the Congress party remains committed to granting special category status to the state.

As the state moves closer to elections, the issue is back at the centre stage, mainly thanks to Y. S. Sharmila. The sister of Jagan Mohan Reddy raised the issue soon after taking over as the state president of the Congress party last month.

She blamed both Jagan and former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu for the state not getting SCS. She alleged that both the present chief minister and former chief minister mortgaged the state's interests.

Sharmila turns the table around on SCS

Sharmila claimed that 22 MPs of YSRCP and three MPs of TDP are in the hands of BJP and both the parties are dancing to BJP's tunes.

Recalling that Jagan had undertaken a hunger strike for SCS when he was in opposition, the Congress leader asked if he sincerely fought to achieve the same after becoming the chief minister.

She also urged both Jagan and Chandrababu Naidu to come along in mounting pressure on the Centre. She demanded that a resolution be passed in the Assembly.

The APCC chief also staged a dharna in the national capital and met leaders of various parties to mobilise support for the SCS demand.

Y.S. Sharmila
Y.S. Sharmila's entry may change political equation in AndhraIANS

The pressure was obvious as Jagan broke his silence on the issue last week. He stated in the Assembly that no party should get majority at the Centre in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. "I wish any party that comes to power will have to rely on the YSRCP for support. If there is a government that is favourable to us, we can bargain for SCS for Andhra Pradesh," he said.

Meanwhile, TDP leaders are also raising the issue of SCS in the public meetings. They are not only slamming YSRCP for failing to achieve SCS but also claiming that Jagan has compromised with the Centre due to corruption pending cases against him.

Former CBI Joint Director V. V. Lakshmi Narayana recently floated a political party with the only agenda of fighting for SCS.

He believes that the main reason for high unemployment is the state not getting SCS. Alleging that YSRCP, TDP and Jana Sena all have sidelined the issue of special category status, he said Jai Bharat National Party will bring the issue to mainstream discussion.

Lakshmi Narayana had joined Jana Sena party of actor politician Pawan Kalyan just before the 2019 elections. He had unsuccessfully contested for Visakhapatnam Lok Sabha seat on Jana Sena ticket.

In 2020, he quit Jana Sena citing Pawan Kalyan's decision to return to films as the reason for his exit.

Lakshmi Narayana had taken voluntary retirement in 2018. He was then serving as the Additional Director General of Police (Planning and Coordination) in Maharashtra.

While serving as the Joint Director of the CBI, he had investigated the disproportionate assets charges made against Jagan and arrested him.

(With inputs from IANS)