Modi Has Blurred the Line Between Party and Government: Chandrababu Naidu

Urging regional parties to come together against the BJP, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister also said that under the Modi government, Centre-state relations have hit their lowest point.

Vijayawada: Dismissing speculations that the Andhra Pradesh-based Telugu Desam Party (TDP) may enter into a post-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the 2019 general elections, the chief minister of the state and TDP chief, N. Chandrababu Naidu, sounded the poll bugle at the end of Mahanadu, the three-day annual party congress, by declaring the saffron party to be its main “political enemy”.

The friendly overtures that two Union ministers of the TDP – P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y.S. Chowdary – made towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March before resigning from their respective positions in the cabinet was interpreted as the party trying to keep the door open for a possible post-poll alliance.  

In an exclusive interaction with select mediapersons, Naidu said that the “BJP has been trying to get a backdoor entry into the state by covertly supporting the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP)”, thereby positioning himself at the opposite pole against both its state and national rival.

He said that the “collusion between YSRCP and BJP can be gauged from the fact that the resignations of YSRCP’s MPs in Lok Sabha have still not been accepted while the speaker accepted those of B.S. Yeddyurappa and B. Sreeramulu within 24 hours.” A few months ago, YSRCP MPs had resigned in protest against the Centre’s denial of special category status to AP.   

Naidu further said that the saffron party should not come into power in 2019 as under the Modi government, the Centre-state relations have worsened. “Never in the history of India have Centre-state relations been so bad. Modi slogan is that of cooperative federalism. Where is that. You have to search for that,” he said.

Modi abolished the Planning Commission and replaced it with the NITI Aayog. When the NITI Aayog recommended that states like Andhra Pradesh should be given what is due to them, Modi intervened and stopped the release of funds,” he said while speaking about the collapse of institutions in the country. He indicated that Modi wants to control all the autonomous and constitutional institutions of India.

Responding to BJP’s denial of special category status to Andhra Pradesh, he said that the implementation of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, which promises various assurances apart from special status, were “the state’s right, not a favour done by the Centre”.

“The Polavaram dam project and the development of the capital city of AP, Amaravati, are already in full swing. The state government has been using its own revenue to fund the projects. The Centre has to give its share on a timely basis and it has not done that. These are promises made in the (reorganisation) Act. We persistently requested the Centre to release funds. All these four years (as a partner in the National Democratic Alliance), we waited with patience. But it was only after the last Budget, we felt that we should not tolerate this injustice,” the chief minister said, while speaking about why his party decided to walk out of NDA in the fourth year of the Modi government.

On recent accusations by BJP president Amit Shah that the AP government did not submit utility certificates of their spending for the Centre to release additional funds, Naidu said, “I am saying, ‘Who is Amit Shah to talk on these matters?’ He is only a president of a political party. This matter has to be resolved between the Centre and the state. I invite the prime minister and all central ministers to come and review our development work. It is all there for everyone to see. But Shah interfering in administrative matters is unacceptable,” Naidu said, adding that the AP government had submitted all documents that were required for the Centre to release the funds.

He also indicated that Shah’s statements were proof that under the Modi government, the line between party and government has blurred. “Now he (Shah) is saying that I did not take up the offer of (diversion of funds through) special purpose vehicle (SPV) because I want to swindle money. What a man! I have 40 years of political experience. And he is trying to tarnish my image without any evidence,” he said.

BJP president Amit Shah with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Credit: PTI

He added that it was this high-handed and autocratic attitude of the Modi-Shah duo that has led them to believe that the Central government had to no intention to support Andhra Pradesh.

“We have been raising the issue that the bifurcation of the state was not done scientifically. We thought that as an ally, the BJP would help us develop the new AP. That it will realise that we have to build our infrastructure and systems from scratch. But they had no intention to support us. Now they are being vindictive,” he said in his concluding speech at the Mahanadu.

He added that the Centre released Rs 350 crore for the development of backward regions, as was promised in the Reorganisation Act, but withdrew it subsequently. “Can you imagine that Central funds were withdrawn from the state accounts. We were told that the funds were released without PMO’s approval, Have you ever heard of such a thing?” he told the journalists present at the meeting.

‘Regional parties should come together’

Talking about the current political situation, he said there is an increasing need for all the regional parties to come together. “Both national parties (Congress and BJP) have behaved irresponsibly. It is time the regional parties get their act together and play a national role,” he said.

On a question about whether his relationship with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader K. Chandrashekar Rao is improving as even the latter has been organising forces against the BJP, he said almost in agreement, “The Centre has neglected Telangana too. The Act also promised various development works for Telangana. Hardly any support has come from the Centre. As a result, many projects are pending.”

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu in conversation with Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao. Credit: PTI

When asked whether such a coalition government will be stable, he said, “What is stable? What is unstable? I am saying outcome is important. UPA-I was good. It passed legislations like NREGA, RTI. It fell only when they were not able to show desired results. (Therefore) I am saying, outcome is important.”

He remained non-committal about the possibility of TDP supporting a Congress-led government but added, “Congress was at least shy about its own corruption. But BJP is not even ashamed (about its misdeeds).”

“After what the BJP did in Karnataka (trying to indulge in horse-trading in order to prove its majority), can it call itself non-corrupt? All their big talk, just like their policies, have been proven hollow.”

Asked whether he will be the architect of the Federal Front like the way he steered the United Front government in 1990s, he said his idea was to get parties together against BJP. On the question whether he would want to become the leader of this front, and a probable prime ministerial candidate, he said, “There are so many powerful leaders. There should be a consensual candidate after the elections.”

“Just wait and watch,” he finished his interaction with these words when asked what will be his future course of action.