Chandrababu’s Response to Amit Shah Letter: Myths And Realities
BJP supremo Amit Shah’s stinging nine-page letter to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu accusing him of snapping ties with the NDA for political reasons, evoked a vague response from the latter in the state assembly on Saturday. Amit Shah brought Chandrababu’s fake concern for ‘special category status’ for the state into sharp focus. Chandrababu’s response in the Assembly is filled with half-truths and skirts the main concerns raised by the BJP president.
It must be pointed out that till recently, the AP CM kept asking what the state would gain from SCS. The curious contradiction in Chandrababu’s argument lies in the fact that while he and his son, Lokesh, asked earlier why North Eastern states and others which were granted SCS remained under-developed, he is now trying to turn this question on its head! Chandrababu now cites the example of north eastern states as ones which were given SCS! He maintained that the state benefits only through Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) under 90:10 ratio worth 16,128 Cr. adding that all the attendant benefits were present in Special Assistance which was equivalent to SCS. Chandrababu claimed earlier that anyone who did not welcome Special Package (Assistance) was obstructing the state’s development. It may be recalled that the TDP government hailed this central assistance package as a great achievement of the state government on September 06, 2016, a point which found resonance in Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s statement on March 07, 2018.
TDP MP and former minister Sujana Chowdary had earlier ridiculed students and activists staging a protest on RK beach, Vizag. He labelled SCS as ‘a closed chapter’. For the TDP leadership now to play martyr to the SCS cause is an insult to public intelligence.
Chandrababu Naidu’s U-Turn
Less than two years later, Chandrababu Naidu unsurprisingly made a U-turn demanding special category status only because of the widespread sentiment in the state, as seen from the response to Leader of Opposition and YSRCP President, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s mass contact initiative, Praja Sankalpa Yatra. The same Chandrababu who sang praises of Special Package is now waxing eloquent about the many tax incentives under SCS and North East industrial development schemes (NEIDS). He feigns concern now about the number of industries the state could have got under SCS!
AP Economy Caught in a vicious Cycle
While Chandrababu Naidu spoke about Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), he conveniently forgot about public debt. According to figures provided by Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu in his Budget presentation to the Assembly, the total debt is a whopping 28.7 per cent of the GSDP
Andhra Pradesh’s debt burden is likely to shoot up to a staggering Rs 2,79,000 crore in the 2018-19 fiscal year as the state continues to rely on heavy borrowings. Consider this—Rs 33,461 Cr. as loan in the current fiscal year to repay an interest amount of Rs. 25,928 Cr! In fact, the RBI red-flagged AP saying that high borrowing could derail the growth growth rate.
While PM Modi is criticised as being in ‘flight mode’, he spent only Rs. 274 cr., compared to Chandrababu Naidu’s Rs 600 cr. on his chartered flights at state expense.
The Union Cabinet note on SCS to AP for 5 years was drafted on February 20, 2014 and sent to the 13th Finance Commission on March 01, 2014. Importantly, the 14th Finance Commission started functioning officially from April 01, 2015. The TDP government took office on June 02, 2014. Why didn’t Chandrababu Naidu ever make a pitch for SCS to AP in these ten months?
Why didn’t the TDP government not act expeditiously to get externally aided projects implemented when the special assistance (package) was approved by the Union cabinet? If public welfare was high on priority for the Chandrababu Naidu government, then why did it take so long to access these funds? Why is it that the TDP government has not responded to Central Government’s suggestion of setting up a special purpose vehicle for directly receiving these funds from NABARD? Is it because, as Shah’s letter suggests, it poses problems in diverting such funds for ‘other’ purposes?
When Naidu could arm-twist the Centre on the issue of submerged mandals of Polavaram, why couldn’t he insist on SCS to AP, which was in the same cabinet draft sent to President’s office? Is Chandrababu speaking the truth about Ease of Doing Business Index (EODB) claiming that AP earned the first place for two years in a row—2016 and 2017. Not quite. AP (score of 18.01%) is ranked 14th in 2017. The AP Chief Minister referred to the CAG report about revenue deficit but conveniently avoided CAG report of irregularities worth Rs. 353 Cr. in award of contract for the Pattiseema Lift Irrigation Scheme (PLIS). Another half-truth from Chandrababu Naidu relates to his statement alleging attack on the then Narsaraopet MP, Modugula Venugopala Reddy. Who attacked Reddy? His fellow TDP MPs, Ramesh Rathod and Nama Nageswara Rao from Telangana!
The TDP Government was able to provide lands to private educational institutions such as Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, VIT and SRM University, among others, but could not allocate land to IIM Vizag for 4 years! It took a full 3 years to allocate land to all other public educational institutions. On the Greenfield expressway connecting Amaravathi to Anantapur and Kurnool to Cuddapah, a question to be asked of Chandrababu is—why didn’t the TDP Government send a formal reference to the Centre? Did it send a revised proposal for the approval of the Visakhapatnam metro project? Did it provide land for ORR of 180 km?
New Capital City
Rs.1,000 crore was released by the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India for the development of the capital region. Chandrababu Naidu claimed in the assembly that his government spent the entire amount on housing and urban development in Vijayawada and Guntur, but as Shah’s letter clearly states, why were the utilization certificates for the entire amount not sent to the Centre then? How can he expect central funds for this project further? Just to put things in perspective, the Chattisgarh government could build its capital Naya Rayapur with 4,000 Cr.