Modi has betrayed Andhra over special status: Jairam Ramesh

By Sidhartha Dutta

New Delhi : Senior Congress leader and former union minister Jairam Ramesh says Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has betrayed the Andhra Pradesh people over the special category status promised during the Congress rule when the state was bifurcated to create a separate Telengana.

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In an interview with IANS, the Rajya Sabha member from Andhra Pradesh recalled how the then Congress government wanted the special category status, which involved huge financial packages, to be extended to Andhra Pradesh as compensation for five years. The BJP, which was in opposition then, agreed, but went a step ahead promising it will extend the status to 10 years if it came to power.

The promise was made by M. Vankaiah Naidu, a former BJP president from Andhra Pradesh and now the minister of housing and urban poverty alleviation in the Modi-led government, Ramesh said.

“We were committed to the special category status for five years. Naidu said it will be for 10 years. Finally, they have not implemented it at all. This government has abolished it,” the Congress leader said.

“In the light of what Naidu said on February 20, 2014 (in the Rajya Sabha), it is a betrayal to the people of Andhra.”

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, authored by Ramesh, was notified in the Gazette of India on March 1 of that year and the new Telangana government took office on June 2, 2014.

People in Andhra Pradesh, overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of the bifurcation, were promised special central government help to compensate for the losses the state suffered because all industrial and commercial development was concentrated around the capital Hyderabad that geographically belonged to the new Telangana state.

But nothing has happened on that front more than two years after the BJP came to power at the head of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, of which Andhra Pradesh’s ruling Telegu Desam Party (TDP) is a constituent.

Asked if the pressure from the Congress was not strong enough to force the ruling BJP to grant the special status to the state, Ramesh said: “We carried out agitations (demanding the special status). But this is a decision of the government. We can’t force them. It is a decision of the executive.”

Ramesh “justified” the Congress’ promise for the special status. “The fight (between Andhra and Telangana) was over Hyderabad. It was not being divided. The revenues of Hyderabad were given exclusively to Telangana. Fifty percent of the revenues coming to the state was from Hyderabad alone. So, it was the Hyderabad factor that created a lot of problem.”

The former minister has chronicled the saga of the Andhra Pradesh separation, “Old History – New Geography – Bifurcating Andhra Pradesh” by Rupa, narrating how the difficult decision had put the Congress in a precarious situation.

He told IANS that the decision to bifurcate caused a deep division in the Congress that “had a very strong pro-Telangana sentiment as well as a very strong anti-Telangana sentiment”.

“The Congress was deeply divided. Even now it is deeply divided,” he said, adding the party faced “an extraordinary situation” because its then chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy in the state also went against the decision.

Ramesh, the chief architect of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, narrates in the book how some Congress leaders came to him saying he was writing their and the party’s political obituary.

“Sadly, my colleagues from Seemandhra were sullen and came to me to say that I had written their political obituaries, as indeed that of the Congress, in the new state of Andhra Pradesh.”

But the “decision had been taken. The (Congress) Working Committee had taken a decision, the cabinet had taken a decision, parliament took a decision. It gave me not a great joy that one section of my party was very happy, and one section was not very happy.”

“Our Telangana people were happy, but Andhra people were not very happy,” he writes in the book.