(Brig (retd) GB Reddi)
The Parliament session ended in a ‘Sine Die” adjournment on predictable lines. Why?
The MPs of TDP and their arch rival, the YSRCP, were hell bent upon scoring over each other spearheading the “No Confidence Motion” over the issue of grant of “Special Category Status (SCS)”.
Bipartisan media is presenting their biased opinions depend on their leanings. Some of them blame the BJP for the Tamil Nadu MPs ‘ruckus’ in both houses on the establishment of “Cauvery Board”.
Yet, the ruling BJP kept highlighting that they are prepared to face the challenge of “No Confidence Motion” on the floor of both houses, provided opposition parties restore order.
Even a layman can realize that the BJP just cannot take a decision on such a critical issue what with the elections to Karnataka Assembly round the corner in the final campaigning stage.
Be that as it may, the controversy continues to rage with the MPs of YSRCP resigning their membership from the Lok Sabha and “On fast unto Death” in Andhra Pradesh Bhavan. And, they demand the TDP MPs to also submit their resignations and join them in the “Fast”.
Bizarre politics are on grand display – protests, resignations, cycle rallies, Bus Yatra’s, padayatra’s, and so on. All with the end objective of gaining power in 2019 elections by fooling or confusing people.
Who is fooling whom? Is it the BJP or the Congress Party or TDP or YSRCP or others? One certain political outcome is simple. Following the ‘Great Betrayal” by both the Congress Party and the BJP in bifurcating the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh, people will never elect their candidates based on past experience of their ‘false or fake’ promises.
People’s choice will be largely shaped by their perceptions, emotions and sentiments swayed by Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSRCP and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena.
In reality, all of them are fooling or committing the most heinous fraud on the people of Andhra Pradesh. Why make tall promises when they know that they cannot deliver?
Let me highlight the first fraud by the Congress Party. Only after the shameless drama in Lok Sabha with the flawed bill and resentment from public, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, instead of incorporating SCS status in the A.P. Reorganization Act, who in the debate on February 20, 2014, in the Rajya Sabha stated that the SCS would be “extended to the successor State of Andhra Pradesh … for a period of five years.”
Following demand by Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley, the Parliament and UPA cabinet passed the implementation of a special package for the 7 backward districts for the state on the lines of other packages implemented in the past in Bundelkhand, MP, and Odisha. 15% additional depreciation on new plant and machinery setup in backward region. 15% investment allowance for industries setup in backward region was applicable for 5 years (2015-2020).
Next, the BJP in its 2014 poll manifesto gave assurance to provide and extend ‘SCS’ by 5 more years and allocating funds to completely fulfill first year(2014-15) revenue deficit (before the 14th Finance Commission Report). Special category states get allocations as 90% grants and 10% loans, Concession on excise duty etc. It will remain on a ‘limbo’ whichever party may come to power.
Knowing full well that granting of “SCS” is a highly controversial issue without first granting the same to other states like Bihar, Odisha and even West Bengal as late entry, all political parties including the Congress Party, the TDP, the YSRCP and even others are agitating over the issue just to cause embarrassment to the BJP by scoring brownie points by indulging in theatrics both inside and outside both houses of Parliament and in the streets.
What does “SCS” involve? The National Development Council (NDC) granted this status based on a number of features of the States which included: hilly and difficult terrain, low population density or the presence of sizeable tribal population, strategic location along international borders, economic and infrastructural backwardness and non-viable nature of State finances.
What kind of assistance do SCS States receive? The SCS States used to receive block grants based on the Gadgil-Mukherjee formula, which effectively allowed for nearly 30 per cent of the Total Central Assistance to be transferred to SCS States as late as 2009-10.
With regard to Revenue deficit in 2014-15, the Parliament and BJP promised to fulfill the resource gap in first year budget before the approval of the 14th Finance commission recommendations. The state has a revenue deficit of Rs 9,736 crores till end of Jan 2015. The State requested an amount of Rs 15,691 crores. An amount of Rs 500 crores was allocated in Feb 2015.
As per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission (FFC), Central plan assistance to SCS has been increased in the divisible pool from 32% in the 13th FC recommendations to 42%; and, do not any longer appear in plan expenditure. The FFC also recommended variables such as “forest cover” to be included in devolution, with a weightage of 7.5 in the criteria and which could benefit north-eastern States. Besides, assistance to Centrally Sponsored Schemes for SCS States was given with 90% Central share and 10% State share.
Most important, the AP Reorganization Act and Bill provided for other measures to include: constitute a Krishna River Management Board and a Godavari River Management Board; creation of separate All India Services Cadres; common High Court until a separate court was set up under Article 214 for the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh, sharing of assets, raising additional police forces and setting up of a separate Greyhound training centre by three years, allocation of natural gas and energy, Polavaram project as a ‘National Project’, and various institutions.
In 2009 National water commission approved the “Polavaram Project” at an estimated cost of Rs 16,010 crores which has skyrocketed to Rs 20,000 crores by 2015. Since 2004 the state government had spent Rs 5,700 crores on the project. No commitment has been made on the funds spent by the state government. Anticipating a delay, the state government has embarked upon ‘Pattiseema lift irrigation’ to pump 70 TMC of water from Godavari to Krishna and plans to complete it in 2015.
Most critical is the establishment of the New Capital at Amaravati. The State government has sent a report with estimates of Rs 20,935 crores for 5 years to develop the new capital. Act: Section 94(3) of the act. The state entered into an MOU with Singapore government to prepare a master plan for the capital with a lot of fanfare.
Add to the above, the 13th schedule of the act that specified infrastructure and educational institutions to be established during the 12th and 13th plan periods. The infrastructure projects include: a new major port at Duggirajupatnam to be completed in phases with Phase I by end-2018; and feasibility studies for establishing an integrated Steel Plant in YSR District, a Greenfield crude oil refinery and petrochemical complex, Vizag-Chennai industrial corridor along the lines of Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, expanding the existing Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Tirupathi airports to international standards, a new railway zone, Metro Rail facility in Vishakhapatnam and Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali Metropolitan Urban Development Authority within period of one year from the appointed day.
In reality, the three airports at Vizag, Vijayawada and Tirupathi have been upgraded to international norms. Otherwise, the establishment of a new major port at Duggirajupatnam is mired in controversy. So also, the fate of establishment of Steel Plant at Kadapa districts remains uncertain. Also, the demand for the establishment of the High Court in Kadapa. The future of Vizag, selected as a Smart city, with the USA to be a lead partner in developing the city, has not yet fructified.
Almost all the feasibility reports with regard to other projects remain on paper. Some among them are on hold due to controversies.
However, in the education field, the progress is satisfactory. The central government was directed to setup IIT, IIM, IISER, NIT, Central University, Petroleum University, Agricultural University, IIIT, Tribal University, NIDM and AIIMS. The state government is expected to provide land and central government will fund the Institutions.
In the budget of 2015-16, Rs 208 crores was allocated. (IIM, IIT, NIT, IISER got Rs 40 crores each. IIIT: Rs 45 Crores, Central University: Rs 1 crores, Tribal University: Rs 2 crores, AIIMS-unknown). Rs 75 core was allocated for Agricultural University.
In reality, ten out of 11 centrally funded institutes have started functioning – IIM at Visakhapatnam, IIT and IISER at Tirupathi, NIT at Tadepalligudem, Central University and Energy University at Anantapur, IIITD and Urdu University at Kurnool, admissions to AIIMS, Mangalgiri to begin by June 2018, National Institute of Disaster Management, inaugurated at Bapatla in February 2018 and courses scheduled to commence shortly and the Agriculture university in Guntur. So also the Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy will function from new academic year 2016-17 from Andhra University premises and the admissions will be based on the JEE examination.
In the past 9 months what has come across strikingly is that the actions are not matching the words! Both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi’s commitments made to people of AP during the passage of AP Reorganization ACT 2014 and Bill besides election campaign pre poll promises remain unfulfilled. None of the political parties can confer SCS status exclusively to Andhra Pradesh without granting the same status to Bihar, Odisha and even West Bengal. Let none suffer from illusions on the above count.
Ipso facto, Chandrababu Naidu (CBN) and the TDP are facing serious challenge from the YSRCP and the fledgling Jana Sena.
No wonder, CBN and the TDP has divorced/abandoned BJP and taken to the streets to apportion the blame on the party’s non-performance/delivery of pre poll promises to the BJP-led NDA Central government. That is, after 4-years partnership and 30 visits to New Delhi.
Add to them, the record of sorts in the matter of foreign visits since June 2014. Over 200 IAS and IPS officers apart from the Chief Minister and his Cabinet colleagues have visited more than 30 countries. The most preferred destinations were Singapore, the US, Japan and South Korea.
No wonder, the YSRCP criticizes CBN for his dismal failure to attract foreign investors after undertaking the most hyped foreign tours – 13 foreign tours – four to five day tours – ever since he assumed the office in 2014 until October 2017. Of course, his visits to Singapore, Japan, Davos and holding partnership summits have not yielded financial inflows to implement various projects including his grandiose capital at Amaravati.
Thus, bizarre politics indulged by CBN and TDP against its arch rivals – the YSRCP and the Jana Sena. In particular, when Modi’s charisma is fading as per his perception. So, Modi and the BJP, overnight turn from partners into rivals to appease the minority vote banks. None can blame CBN for such a volte face. After all, there are no friends or enemies in politics. And, most important is permanent selfish interests sans ideologies that govern his attitudes and behavior as his past record attests.
At the same time, even the YSRCP cannot align with the BJP in a pre-poll pact since it may dent its image among the minorities – Muslims and Christians. How the Jana Sena will play its games is anyone’s guess. All one can predict with a degree of certainty is that both the Congress Party and the BIP – the Great Betrayers – will remain untouchables.