As commentators analyse the significance and symbolism of the first 100 days of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the domestic and foreign policy fronts, they cannot ignore the challenge of developing Andhra Pradesh, left residual and capital-less after political compulsions led to the creation of Telangana.
For all practical purposes a new State, Andhra Pradesh, with its massive development plans needing Central assistance, could well be a test case to judge Mr. Modi on how he juggles Centre-State relations, without hurting his new-found friend, Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, and the saffron party’s interests in the two States.
Mr. Modi may have to marshal all his political skills to bring about a rapprochement between the two Telugu-speaking States that have been squabbling ever since their official formation on June 2, over sharing of power, river water, fee reimbursement to students, educational institutions, allotment of government employees and special powers to Governor.
He may have to strike a balance between his party’s revived relations with the TDP and Mr. Naidu’s wish-list that keeps growing every time he makes a trip to New Delhi. If he agrees to all the demands made by Mr. Naidu, he may invite criticism of giving in to coalition compulsions and of triggering an avalanche of similar demands from other States.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already wondered why the Special Category Status is being denied to his State while Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa shot off a letter to the Prime Minister cautioning him against granting tax breaks to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Mr. Modi’s attempt to please Mr. Naidu may ruffle the feathers of Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao and result in the BJP paying a price as it tries hard to spread its footprints in the State. In such a scenario, Mr. Modi’s every step to reach out to Mr. Naidu and help Andhra Pradesh will come under scrutiny. Satisfying an ever demanding Mr. Naidu is no easy task. Besides SCS, his demands include the bridging of the revenue deficit through a grant of Rs. 15,000 crore, special development packages for seven backward districts, liberal funding for the capital, Polavaram as a national project, relaxation from the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act and a string of 11 national institutions like the IIT and the IIM.
All these demands could court controversy. The SCS for five years was orally promised by the former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, when the Reorganisation Bill came up for discussion. It was aimed at assuaging the feelings of Congress MPs from Seemandhra.
Dr. Singh said the Planning Commission would be asked to grant SCS while the then Union Minister representing Andhra Pradesh, Jairam Ramesh, spoke of creating a special cell in the Planning Commission. But now, with the Planning Commission itself being wound up, the SCS for A.P. hangs in the balance.Mr. Naidu made three trips to New Delhi before his swearing-in on June 25 and the latest on August 25. “I asked the Prime Minister to honour all the commitments made to the State at the time of the passage of the Act in Parliament, and he has assured me that the Centre would come out with a roadmap for the implementation of the promises”, he said.
But for the transfer of submergence villages from Telangana to Andhra Pradesh to facilitate the construction of Polavaram as a national project, none of the other promises made by the Centre has been translated into action.