How special can ‘special’ be? That Andhra Pradesh, post-bifurcation, needed a helping hand from the Centre was never in question. But the modalities of the >special status the State wanted , needed to be worked out. Could it be declared a Special Category State, or was the right way to grant it a special financial package that did not require meeting the mandated requirements for Special Category status? A.P. does not qualify as a Special Category State; it has neither geographical disadvantages such as hilly terrain nor historical disadvantages such as socio-economic and infrastructural backwardness and unviable finances. Eventually, when the Centre >announced a special package , the emphasis was on assisting the State on the basis of the road map laid down in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, an oral commitment made in 2014 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the report of the 14th Finance Commission and the recommendations of the Niti Aayog. The package, valid for five years till 2020, might not have everything that Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had asked for, but meets most of the reasonable expectations of a State struggling to recover from bifurcation and dealing with the imminent loss of the capital city, Hyderabad. The Polavaram irrigation project was declared a national project; a railway zone was to be formed in the State and the Central Board of Direct Taxes was to issue two notifications on tax concessions. Special Category status could only have been a crutch; the package might be the stimulus that it needs after bifurcation. Under the circumstances, this is a good deal.
However, the political battle over the Special Category status is not going to get over soon. Opposition parties, led by the Congress and the YSR Congress, have targeted Mr. Naidu for failing to convince the Centre. That his Telugu Desam Party is in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party will invite charges of a sell-out of A.P.’s interests. Union Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu of the BJP, perhaps anticipating this reaction, indicated that the Centre’s support would be a continuous process. The TDP government must look ahead, and use the special package to boost growth and create conditions for employment generation. While concentrating resources on building the capital at Amaravati, Mr. Naidu must not lose sight of the immediate development goal: the livelihood concerns of ordinary people. That could be his political legacy: a Chief Minister who saw the State through a difficult phase and laid the foundation for a robust economy.