In the Assembly, Opposition leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy on Thursday demanded an apology from chief minister Chandrababu Naidu for welcoming whatever the Centre had offered. He hit Naidu where it hurts most – questioning how Naidu’s blood, which boiled when Jailtey ruled out special status not very recently, had cooled down when the same Union Minister conclusively said NO to the demand on Wednesday night.
But Naidu’s position is unenviable. He knows he cannot bargain from a position of strength as he has nothing that gives him control over the Centre. The BJP does not need his MPs but accommodated two of them in the central cabinet as a goodwill gesture since the TDP is its political ally. That he cannot stand up to PM Modi or Jaitley was clear when he made a statement in Legislative Council on Thursday. “I welcome whatever has been promised. Let the promises be given statutory status so that there would be an element of certainty that they would come eventually to the state. Let the Centre keep all the promises made in the AP State Reorganistion Act, 2014.”
Jaitley left many things unsaid, the trickiest one being revenue deficit which the state inherited at the time of division.
Though the CAG had put it at `16,000 crore, Naidu is understandably uneasy over what the Centre intends to do. Throughout Wednesday, he held talks with Jaitley but at the end of the day, nothing concrete emerged except the oft-repeated statement that the Centre would honour all the promises made in the Act.
That Naidu is growing restive was not difficult to perceive. For one thing, he has a near impossible capital project at Amaravati about which the entire world now knows, thanks to the blitzkrieg campaign that preceded it. If he picks up a quarrel with the Centre, he would stand to lose because he has no lever with him to make the BJP listen.
“If we indulge in hard talk, the Centre could find excuses to deny even whatever help that is coming now from Delhi,” Naidu is reported to have commented with his ministers. In other words, he wanted to exert pressure just enough to make the BJP understand the state’s needs but not cause severe pain lest it prove counterproductive.
At at time when the Centre appeared to have forgotten the special category status demand and other bifurcation related issues, it was, in fact, the Congress which had brought focus on it with KVP Ramachandra Rao introducing a private member’s bill in the Rajya Sabha.
Later the BJP’s and TDP’s ally Pawan Kalyan hit the streets, loud-mouthing expletives at the BJP though he holds Modi in high regard, for being silent on the demand. If KVP forced Naidu to pitch for special status to prevent the public from veering towards the Congress again, Pawan’s appearance came as a blessing in disguise since he chose the harshest words to hit out at the BJP which Naidu cannot. As Pawan appeared to be doing what TDP could not do, the YSRC was quick enough to slam Naidu for “sponsoring” the actor’s show.
If there is an element of truth in what the YSRC says, then it means that the TDP was telling the BJP that it has a weapon in its armoury in the form of the “six feet bullet” to tarnish its image and at the same time, scuttle Jagan’s moves by consolidating the Kapu vote bank which seemed to have shifted away from Naidu after Kapu patriarch Mudragada Padmanabham’s hunger strikes for BC status for his castemen.