TDP has been demanding for central funds for Andhra Pradesh under special status (File)
Hyderabad: The Telugu Desam Party's two ministers in the central government met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday evening and handed him their resignation. Shortly before that, PM Modi spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, who, during the 10-minute conversation, formally conveyed the TDP's decision to pull out its two ministers over its demand for "special status" for the state. Sources said the conversation was cordial and did not reflect current tensions. Mr Naidu had said on Wednesday night that he had called PM Modi but could not reach him. "My OSD spoke to his OSD but the prime minister did not come on line," he said.
Here are the top 10 updates on this big story:
TDP's YS Chowdary, who quit as the Minister of State for Science and Technology along with Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapati Raju, told reporters that it wasn't that the centre hadn't given funds for Andhra Pradesh. But "the major emotional and sentimental issue of special status for Andhra Pradesh was not addressed," he said.
Both, however, underlined the TDP remains part of the BJP-led national alliance NDA, saying any decision to sever ties will be taken by Chandrababu Naidu. The TDP has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha and four in the Rajya Sabha. TDP lawmaker Ravindra Babu had earlier told NDTV that the next "logical step" for his party is to exit the alliance.
"PM Modi told us that he was with the people of Andhra Pradesh," Mr Chowdary said. In his resignation letter, the TDP lawmaker had attributed the step to "prevailing public sentiment" and "the circumstances that led to that situation" back home, a cryptic reference to the special status demand.
The BJP's four-year-old alliance with the TDP was brought to breakpoint when Chandrababu Naidu called a press conference on Wednesday night to announce that he was pulling out his ministers, hours after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley ruled out "special status" to Andhra Pradesh.
"I went to Delhi 29 times, met Prime Minister and Central Ministers and requested them to fulfil our demands," Mr Naidu said on Wednesday. "When the intended purpose (of joining the Union Cabinet) has not been served, there is no point in continuing. For me the sole agenda is to safeguard the interests of the state."
Not only was he upset that he was unable to speak to the Prime Minister when he called, Mr Naidu described as "hurtful and insulting" Mr Jaitley's comments as he explained why the centre cannot give Andhra Pradesh "special category status."
Arun Jaitley had said that the centre was happy to give funds to Andhra Pradesh, but cannot give it special status as that scheme was scrapped by the 14th Finance Commission for all states except the north east and hill states.
"The centre cannot say now that all the funds that I have will now be given to the states and I have no money because after all the security of India is a Central responsibility," said Mr Jaitley. Mr Naidu alleged Mr Jaitley suggested that the TDP was "asking for money at the expense of the country's Defence Budget... Jaitley spoke like we asked for all the money. We felt insulted."
The TDP faces extreme pressure in Andhra Pradesh ahead of assembly elections and the national election next year, with opposition parties like the YSR Congress accusing Mr Naidu of failing the state by not ensuring special status for it as a partner at the centre. Andhra parties say nothing short of "special status" will do as that was promised to the state when it was bifurcated to carve out a new state Telangana, leaving what was left of Andhra Pradesh in a deep revenue deficit.