TDP pulls ministers out of Modi Cabinet, to remain in NDA for now – Times of India

AMARAVATI/NEW DELHI: Telugu Desam (TDP) formally pulled out of the central government on Thursday after a conversation between Prime Minister
Narendra Modi and Andhra Pradesh CM N
Chandrababu Naidu failed to reverse the downturn in ties between the allies a little more than a year ahead of the next Lok Sabha polls.

Two TDP representatives quit the Modi ministry in Delhi while BJP ministers in the state government submitted their resignations to Naidu earlier in the day. The developments followed Naidu’s late-evening announcement on Wednesday that TDP would withdraw its ministers as the Centre had failed to grant Andhra Pradesh special category status.

While Naidu had said he had waited to speak to Modi but the call did not come, the conversation finally took place on Thursday. The CM is understood to have reiterated that TDP ministers were quitting to respect public sentiment that the state had been wronged. “Public anger over the neglect of AP’s interests has left me with no option,” a close aide quoted Naidu telling the PM as he turned down the plea to reconsider the pullout.

BJP too had appeared reconciled to the parting of ways, with sources suggesting that the PM’s outreach may have been motivated more by his desire to counter any perception of indifference to the state than the hope of a remarkable turnaround in ties. In fact, finance minister Arun Jaitley was deployed on Wednesday evening to counter Naidu’s allegations after the BJP leadership concluded that the chief minister was headed for the exit door.

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On Thursday, too, BJP leaders rejected the “betrayal” charge as “baseless and unfortunate”. They argued that the Modi government had moved to deliver a significant part of the assistance promised when Telangana was created. “The assistance was to be over 10 years. Most of it has been delivered in four years,” BJP state unit chief Hari Babu said.

TDP has not completely shut the door on a possible rapprochement as it remains a member of NDA, but room for manoeuvre is limited given Naidu’s demands and the Centre ruling out special category status citing it to be constitutionally unviable. The state’s demands for tax concessions, senior sources at the Centre said, took the bill to around Rs 1 lakh crore in assistance, which was not viable.

The phone call from Modi is also seen as being aimed to counter the suggestion that the PM is insensitive to the public mood and a formality rather than an effort to retain TDP ministers.

TDP’s decision to continue in NDA seems to be Naidu’s strategy to make it look like he has been reluctant to quit the coalition, but is being compelled to take a harsh step in the interest of his state. The move to pull out ministers is intended to mount pressure on the BJP leadership to accede to the financial demands but this has been snubbed by Jaitley.

The Centre is wary of commitments for special category leading to similar demands, with the Janata Dal (U) raising the issue on Thursday in the context of Bihar. BJP leaders said options for assistance were offered but made the point that funds for development needed to be channelled only in certain ways.

BJP ministers Kamineni Srinivas (health) and P Manikyala Rao (endowments) submitted their resignations to Naidu in the morning. In Delhi, TDP ministers Ashok Gajapathi Raju (civil aviation) and Y S Chowdary (MoS science and technology) had to wait till evening to meet Modi because of the PM’s trip to Rajasthan for a rally to mark International Women’s Day.

Modi telephoned Naidu around 4.30pm and the two had a 10-minute conversation.

Likening the decision to an unfortunate divorce, Chowdary said, “We are happy when marriages happen, not when divorces happen. It is not a good move, but, unfortunately, due to unavoidable circumstances, we had to take this move. We are stepping down as ministers, but our president has said we will be continuing as part of NDA.”

Meanwhile, YSR Congress president Jagan Mohan Reddy kept up the pressure on Naidu by urging him to support the no-confidence motion to be moved by his party against the NDA government in Parliament on March 21.

(With inputs from Gopi Dara)

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