The Congress, which lost popular support in Andhra Pradesh over the bifurcation of Telangana, today promised special status to the state if the party came to power. In his first rally in the state at Vijaywada, party chief Rahul Gandhi shifted the focus to the contentious issue special status, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government of refusing to honour the commitment made by the UPA government.
"Special status to Andhra Pradesh was a commitment from the Prime Minister of India and not Manmohan Singh of the Congress," Rahul Gandhi said at a rally in Vijaywada.
"The commitment was made on behalf of India. Modi has been Prime Minister for five years but has not fulfilled this commitment," Mr Gandhi said.
The bifurcation of Telangana by the UPA government in February 2014, months before the general election, was accompanied by the promise of special status for Andhra Pradesh, which would have provided the state with a lot of economic benefits.
But the NDA government refused to provide it, pointing to a fresh rule by the Finance Commission that bars special status for all states except those in the hills. The disagreement eventually led to Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu's walkout of the alliance last year.
But Mr Naidu, who has since been one of the greatest advocates of a united opposition, ruled out a state-level alliance with the Congress on account of its unpopularity.
The Chief Minister, however, has been facing a big challenge from his arch-rival in the state - Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress, who has managed to stay in the public eye over the special status issue with the longest-ever Padayatra.
Mr Gandhi, however, targeted both parties over the special status issue, saying, "I'm surprised that the parties in Andhra Pradesh are not pushing PM for giving special status to the state.
The elections to the 175-member Andhra Pradesh Assembly will be held simultaneously with the state's 25 Lok Sabha seats on April 11.
The Congress was washed out in both Lok Sabha and state assembly elections in the Seemandhra region in 2014. The party failed to win even a single Lok Sabha or assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh, a state it had ruled for decades.
Mr Naidu's Telugu Desam Party won 102 of the 175 assembly seats. The fledgling YSR Congress won 67 seats.
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