Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday reiterated his party's support to special category status for Andhra Pradesh, saying it would top the list of priorities "when we come to power in 2019."
Taking to Twitter, Gandhi attached a video of the protest and said that the opposition was united on the demand to give ‘justice’ to the people of Andhra Pradesh. "This afternoon I joined the protests at Jantar Mantar demanding "Special Status" for Andhra Pradesh. It is my belief that if the opposition stands united on this issue, we can force the BJP Govt to do justice to the people of Andhra," wrote Gandhi on Twitter, with a video and the hashtag 'INCStandsWithAndhra'.
Gandhi’s comments came on a day when Telugu Desam Party and YSR Congress MPs held a protest in Jantar Mantar, demanding a special package to Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP MPs were demanding the special status for Andhra Pradesh as was promised at the time of creation of Telangana in 2014. At the time, special status was promised to Andhra Pradesh for foregoing Hyderabad and the eventual status to grant it was announced in Parliament and endorsed by political parties including BJP.
Rahul Gandhi said it was time to fulfil the promise. "Our stance has been very clear we are in support of Special Category Status for Andhra Pradesh. While we are for special category of Andhra Pradesh and the first thing we will do when we come to power in 2019 is give the state Special Category Status to Andhra," the Congress President said. "I am confident that if we stand together, we will convince the Government of India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi that what is due to the people of Andhra Pradesh should be given to them at once."
Aam Aadmi Party legislator Somnath Bharti, who also joined the protest, said he had come to extend support on "behalf” of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
"I have come with the Delhi chief minister’s message of support. The AAP will support the Congress wherever they raise this demand, be it inside or outside Parliament,” he said.
This issue also found an echo in Parliament where, both in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, the opposition sought to corner the government over the issue along with the Punjab National Bank scam and the Cauvery water dispute.
The TDP is actually a part of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government in the Centre. However, the relationship has somewhat soured with the party and its chief, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu unhappy about the Centre not giving special status to the state as it was promised following after it was bifurcated from Telangana.
BJP-TDP alliance is on the rocks and TDP is leading the protest against the BJP-ruled Centre in the Parliament over the issue of Special Category Status. TDP is also seeking support from other parties over the issue of special status.
Naidu, who is an ally of BJP, both in Centre and State, has been hitting out at BJP for not fulfilling the promises. "BJP should not forget the lesson which was taught to Congress by the people. We are not seeking any favour, but asking what was promised to us at the time of bifurcation,” he said.
Naidu has said he is ready to move a no-confidence motion against the central government with the support of other parties to get "justice” for the southern state. However, he said such a move will be the "last resort”.
Special status is accorded to a state on the basis of a variety of factors including widespread difficult terrain, economic and/or infrastructural backwardness, low population density etc. The primary benefit of being given a special status is an increase in allocation of funds and greater ease in getting loans.