Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh will influence alliance equations in New Delhi

Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh will influence alliance equations in New Delhi

The journey from promises made by prime ministers to protests led by chief ministers underscores the persistent demand for economic support and development incentives for Andhra Pradesh

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Last Updated : 18 June 2024, 06:03 IST

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) meeting in Vijayawada, outlined the priorities of his government for the next five years. He emphasised the completion of the Polavaram project, the development of Amaravati as the capital city, the development of the state, and assured the welfare of its citizens.

Surprisingly, he did not mention anything related to the Special Category Status (SCS) for Andhra Pradesh. In contrast, former CM Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, raised the demand for SCS as Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) plays a key role in the NDA at the national level. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh tweeted that the I.N.D.I.A. bloc will grant SCS to Andhra Pradesh immediately after the election results. The voters in Andhra Pradesh have given a decisive majority to the NDA, and they are now waiting for the promised development of the state.

A timeline of promises and protests

The demand for the SCS for Andhra Pradesh has been a persistent political issue. On February 14, 2014, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged SCS to the newly formed state for five years. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Venkaiah Naidu countered by promising that if the BJP were elected to power, it would extend it for 10 years — a promise reiterated by Narendra Modi in Tirupati two months later; both Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan were present at the meeting.

The TDP was part of the ruling NDA until mid-March 2018, when Chandrababu Naidu withdrew from the alliance, citing Andhra Pradesh’s ‘neglect’ by the Modi government. He blamed Modi for the political fallout, stating that despite flying to the national capital 29 times, he achieved nothing for the state. On February 11, 2019, Chandrababu Naidu led a protest at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh, and met with the President of India. The protest saw participation from several opposition leaders, including Congress’ Rahul Gandhi.

In June 2019, Reddy became the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh with the assurance of securing SCS, but he failed despite his efforts. The promise of SCS remains unfulfilled, leaving state leaders and citizens to push for the promised support to ensure the state's development and welfare. Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP), criticised both the TDP and the BJP for not getting SCS till 2018, and contested the 2019 Assembly elections by allying with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). The JSP-BSP alliance assured SCS in their election manifestoes.

The demand that will not falter

SCS for states provides additional financial assistance and incentives to spur development in economically disadvantaged regions. If Andhra Pradesh had received SCS after the bifurcation of undivided Andhra Pradesh that led to the loss of Hyderabad to Telangana, it would have been eligible for several benefits. These include Special Central Assistance Grants for development projects and social programmes, better financing terms for externally aided projects from organisations like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, excise duty concessions to make manufacturing and selling goods cheaper, and tax breaks to attract investment and stimulate economic growth. Following the bifurcation, Andhra Pradesh faced significant economic challenges as Hyderabad, a major economic hub, contributed substantially to the state's revenue. Losing Hyderabad meant that Andhra Pradesh needed substantial support to develop new economic centres and infrastructure.

The demand for SCS is crucial for attracting investments and generating job opportunities for the youth. Naidu must balance both social welfare and development activities. The state is already facing severe financial distress. SCS would not only help the state address its financial crisis but also attract investments in the manufacturing and service sectors. These investments would create jobs for the local youth, and lead to the development of auxiliary units and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Strategic moves and political alliances

The TDP and the JSP (both in the NDA), as well as the YSRCP did not prioritise SCS in their campaigns. Only the Congress raised the issue during the election campaign, resulting in SCS not being a major topic in political debates. However, it is expected to become a significant concern in the coming years. It is hoped that Chandrababu Naidu raise this demand within the NDA without further delay and take necessary actions to secure SCS.

The JSP, which played a crucial role in bridging gaps and forming the alliance in the state, initially took a firm stand on the SCS and opposed the BJP and the TDP until 2018. It may take an independent stance on the issue if it becomes crucial. Of particular interest will be Modi’s and BJP leadership’s response to the demand for SCS for Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. This could influence alliances in the near future.

The YSRCP, which secured only 11 MLAs, may focus on criticising the government over the SCS issue. As of now, SCS is a major political weapon for Reddy to mobilise public support and demand it.

For Andhra Pradesh SCS remains unresolved despite repeated assurances and political manoeuvres. The journey from promises made by prime ministers to protests led by chief ministers underscores the persistent demand for economic support and development incentives for Andhra Pradesh. While political alliances and priorities have shifted, the quest for SCS continues to resonate among Andhra Pradesh's leaders and citizens alike, driven by the promise of economic rejuvenation and the creation of opportunities for its people.

G Kiran Kumar, a PhD research scholar at the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad, is National President, All India OBC Students Association.

(Disclaimer: The views expressed above are the author's own. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.)


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