After a determined Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu stuck to his resolve of securing a ‘special status’ for the State born in June 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an announcement which, in practical terms, amounts to the treatment of residual Andhra Pradesh as a Special Category state.
After hours of gruelling negotiations in the government and consultations with Mr. Naidu, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, flanked by his colleague M. Venkaiah Naidu, announced the details on Wednesday night to the media. The package is valid for five years — 2015 to 2020.
While maintaining that the package is subject to approval of the Union Cabinet, Mr. Jaitley said the details would be uploaded on the website of the Finance Ministry (http://finmin.nic.in/) on Thursday morning.
The package revolves around various sections in the A.P. Reorganisation Act, the 14th Finance Commission report recommendations, oral commitment made by the then Prime Minister in February 2014 and the recommendations made by the Niti Ayog in 2015.
Mr. Jaitley reeled out the statistics of the monetary assistance provided by the Centre since the birth of A.P. On Polavaram irrigation project, declared a national project, Mr. Jaitley said the Centre would authorise the State to take charge of the construction while it would meet the financial needs. He said the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) would issue two specific notifications on tax concessions being extended to A.P. On the demand for a new Railway Zone, Mr. Jaitley said it would be dealt with by his colleague and Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
Will continue to extend all support: Venkaiah
In his brief remarks, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu said Delhi would continue to extend all support to A.P. “It would be a continuous process. The new State needs hand-holding and the Modi government would do so”.
High drama and suspense reigned supreme through the day on the kind of special package the Centre would finalise for Andhra Pradesh even as hectic consultations began among Mr. Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu and Union Minister for State for Science and Technology, Y.S. Chowdary in Delhi.
Mr. Chowdary kept briefing Chief Minister Naidu all through the day and at one point there was speculation that he could take a special flight to Delhi to be present when the package was announced. But top TDP leaders ruled out the possibility of the Chief Minister proceeding to Delhi without getting a concrete point-by-point package offer from the Centre.
Party sources said there were a few hiccups in finalising the package as the Chief Minister kept insisting on changes through Mr. Chowdary, leading to the delay in the announcement. He is believed to have ensured that all promises made in the A.P. Reorganisation Act were included in the package.