Hyderabad: The two Telugu-speaking states are a study in contrasts: while Telangana is celebrating the first anniversary of its formation, Andhra Pradesh is sullen.
The people of Telangana and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhara Rao have every reason to rejoice. Defying all odds, they succeeded in their 14-year-long struggle to separate from Andhra Pradesh, India’s first linguistic state, and pack off the ‘Andhra capitalists and exploiters’ to the narrow ribbon of land along the coast and to the parched lands of Rayalaseema.
Even as fireworks lit up the sky on June 2 in Hyderabad as part of the week-long festivities, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu concluded the first day of his Nava Nirmana Deeksha in Vijaywada. This platform for the people to re-dedicate themselves to the development of the State, sat uneasily with the glum dharna-type atmosphere near the Benz Circle.
Naidu’s meeting had another objective – bashing the Congress, the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) and the Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSR Congress for bifurcating AP. However, his Telugu Desam too had been a signatory to a resolution supporting bifurcation adopted at an all-party meeting in December 2009. In fact, Naidu conceded this when he said he neither opposed Telangana nor its development: “Telangana and Andhra are like my two eyes and I cannot afford to discriminate against either.”
The burden of his song was clearly to ‘expose’ Congress President Sonia Gandhi for deceiving the Telugus with her “cruel political game”. But, his attack seemed meaningless as the Congress has been reduced to a cipher in AP and has no immediate prospects of recovering from the death blow administered by voters in the 2014 elections.
Litany of complaints
In reality, Naidu’s gripe is really against the Centre, where the BJP is now in power, for its failure to divide the resources of the state equitably, such as the 100-odd government offices. In many cases, top IAS babus of Andhra were locked out from offices they were occupying till the previous day. Andhra had to beg Telangana for sharing the existing data base and office space to conduct common entrance examinations for professional courses.
Naidu is therefore under pressure from people to hasten the process of shifting the administration to the new capital, Vijayawada. With a massive budget deficit, his government has no funds to build the capital city designed by Singapore. In the long run, constructing the imposing capital will cost five lakh crore rupees and, in the short run, at least Rs 20,000 crores to build core infrastructure like the assembly, secretariat, other government and staff quarters. Unless he gets funds from the Centre, this is not going to happen. Naidu is also drawing flak over the lack of transparency in land pooling for the Capital and his failure to clear farmers’ debts running into one lakh crore rupees.
The NDA-ruled Centre is also dithering over, or has even abandoned, the move to give special category status to Andhra Pradesh as promised by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the Rajya Sabha in February 2014, even though the BJP had made it an issue then.
However, the TDP is a constituent of the NDA and the BJP is a partner in Naidu’s government in Andhra. It was up to him to devise strategies to put pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and have something to show on June 8, the first anniversary of the TDP government, when the foundation will be laid for the new capital.
KCR a picture of contrast
On the Telangana side of the border, however, the atmosphere is one of cheer and optimism. Leading the festivities, KCR announced sops by the bucketload at the ceremonial parade to mark Telangana’s Formation Day, never mind his failure to redeem many election pledges. The ‘birthday gifts’ include notification of 25,000 government jobs in July, 50,000 two-bedroom houses for the poor, 12 per cent reservations for minorities and tribals and 24-hour power supply by 2018.
KCR has many things to be happy about. Unlike his Andhra counterpart, he has a readymade capital whose brand value remains intact, an enviable infrastructure and surplus funds.
He faces no immediate challenge to his supremacy as the Congress is in disarray and the TDP-BJP combine has not gained public acceptance. Thanks to mergers and defections, the number of MLAs supporting him has swelled from 63 last year to 84 now. His cup of happiness will overflow if KCR strikes a political deal with the BJP and persuades Modi to induct his daughter and Nizamabad MP, K. Kavitha into the Union Cabinet.