Prakasam (Andhra Pradesh): The political landscape in Andhra Pradesh has changed post the Union Budget 2018. While the ruling Telugu Desam party (TDP) hit out at its alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main opposition YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) announced that all its five members of Parliament (MPs) will resign on 6 April over demands that Andhra be given special category status.
YSRCP chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy is in no mood to compromise over it. In an interview, Reddy, who is currently on a 3,000-km “Praja Sankalpa Yatra" or walkathon across the state, said that if all 25 MPs from Andhra Pradesh come together, the centre will yield on the demand. Edited excerpts:
The centre and Andhra Pradesh had agreed to settle for the special assistance package instead of the Special Category Status in 2016 itself. So why has it become as issue now?
We have been fighting for this cause right from the start. The special category status was promised to us during bifurcation as a pre-condition on the floor of Parliament by both the then ruling party and opposition. So this demand for reasons known to (chief minister) Chandrababu Naidu took a side track. This being the case, we have been raising it since the new government has taken oath.
Naidu has floated a figure of 12% for the state’s gross state domestic product. How can a state with that growth have revenue deficit? India is growing at about 6-7% and Europe at about 3-4 %, then Andhra Pradesh should be number one in the world.
You have given an ultimatum till 6 April to the centre to attain Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh or your MPs will resign. Do you think it will be enough? Is there a chance that you will settle for something else?
The situation is coming to a climax now... If the centre does not honour its commitment, our MPs will resign. Hopefully if all 25 MPs of the state can come together and resign, then definitely the centre will yield. Special Category Status is something beyond anything else and is the most important thing for our state. Without it, our children after getting an education degree (will) have nowhere to go.
There are also issues like land acquisition for Amaravati, the state’s upcoming capital.
By now, any chief minister would have completed the buildings or basic infrastructure. Not a single permanent structure has come up so far. Look at Karnataka, their assembly was built in 1952 by an Indian architect. In four years by 1956 they finished the job. Here, every now and then new designs are coming up even four years post- bifurcation.
You have been critical of the Andhra Pradesh government over the issue of promised investments of about Rs15 trillion over the last three years. Why so?
Since the last two investments were held Naidu boasted of drawing Rs15 lakh crore (trillion) worth of investments to Andhra Pradesh. How do you understand whether these numbers are correct or wrong? To test them, you can check the department of industrial promotion and policy’s (DIPP’s) data, which is a central body. Anybody who has an inclination to set up a factory, files an industrial entrepreneurial memoranda (IEM). It is the first paper file in the DIPP; without it you cannot go forward. Every year this data is released on 31 December. In 2015, IEMs worth Rs4,500 crore were filed. In 2016, applications of about Rs10,000 crore were filed and for the 2017 the number was Rs4,400 crore. Even among those, not every application converts on to infrastructure on the ground. Naidu has built false propaganda in Andhra Pradesh. You have to ask for Special Category Status only and set aside these figures.
Your father and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister (late Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy) had gone on a similar “padayatra" before he came to power in 2004 and now you are doing the same. He had a pro-poor image. How do you plan to carry forward his legacy?
The whole problem today is that whatever YSR has done, none of the chief ministers prior or who came later have the determination to do that kind of good work. My dad fought with Naidu then for those nine years (he was in power) and now I am fighting with the same person from the last four years. He has not changed and continues to be the same insensitive person he was. Back then everybody who was deserving got what they were entitled to, regardless of party, caste, religion, etc. Now everything has changed, corruption is at an all-time high.