TAMIL NADU

Sonia biased against State: Naidu

HYDERABAD NOV. 10. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, charged the AICC president, Sonia Gandhi, with attempting to deprive Andhra Pradesh of its legitimate share of funds from the Centre by complaining that the Government was showering plenty on the State.

Taking up cudgels on behalf of the State, Mr. Naidu paid Ms. Gandhi back in her own coin by saying that she was showing `step-motherly treatment' to AP by not uttering a word of sympathy for the drought-stricken farmers at the Congress Chief Ministers' conclave at Mount Abu in Rajasthan.

Even her memorandum to the Prime Minister earlier found no mention of the worst-ever drought in Andhra Pradesh.

Mr. Naidu, who was addressing the Telugu Desam Party's newly-appointed convenors and members of district ad hoc committees here on Sunday, denied that Andhra Pradesh was being favoured by the NDA Government.

In fact, the State received more Central assistance when the UDF Government was at the helm.

Stating that the Centre had given only 3 lakh tonnes of rice for drought this year, he said the TDP MPs would raise the issue of non-release of funds for drought relief for 2002-03 in the Parliament session beginning November 18. He declined to say whether the MPs would stage a dharna.

It was unfortunate that Ms. Gandhi, having done nothing to help the State, paid a visit to drought-hit Anantapur district some time ago only to `play politics.'

"Let the Congress party seek help to all States, including Rajasthan, and not make complaints about AP.''

The TDP president also criticised the Congress Chief Ministers' conclave for not expressing any view on the issue of free power supply to farmers, a promise made from every political platform by State Congress leaders.

The party was indulging in the worst kind of "doublespeak'' on the issue of feasibility of free power supply.

The Congress Government in Punjab had withdrawn free power and yet its leaders in AP were harping on the issue. Some were claiming that it would cost the exchequer only Rs. 300 crores while others were saying it would involve a subsidy of Rs. 2,500 crores.

He strongly defended the Centre's decision to allocate 30 lakh tonnes of rice to AP under the Food-for-work programme, the highest for any State.

He said no other State, including Karnataka, could lift the rice allotted by the Centre for drought relief.

Yet, the Congress leaders were undermining the State's interests by asking the Centre to stop further supplies of rice to AP under the programme. One leader even staged a dharna outside the residence of the Union Food Minister in New Delhi alleging irregularities in the programme.

Mr. Naidu said this allegation was baseless since the Government had engaged an external agency, the Engineering Staff College of India, to inspect 10 per cent of the 5.77 lakh works grounded under the employment generation programme and punished hundreds of officials and non-officials involved in corruption.

He urged political parties to stop criticising the drought relief measures and cooperate with the Government in helping farmers and other poorer sections in distress because the kharif crop was badly hit and the prospects for rabi quite poor.

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