In a major setback to the BJP, the TDP on Friday quit the NDA and tabled a no-confidence motion against the Modi government over its refusal to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh, a move that may herald a new political alignment before the next year Lok Sabha polls.
The TDP with 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha -- the second biggest ally of the BJP after the Shiv Sena (18) -- announced the decision to exit from the NDA after Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu held a politburo meeting through teleconferencing with his MPs in Delhi.
The Modi government, however, said it had the numbers in Parliament to defeat the motion. On a rough count, the ruling NDA -- minus TDP -- appears to have the support of 315 members in a House with an effective strength of 538. On its own, the BJP has 274 members -- well above the halfway mark to prove its majority.
On March 8, the TDP had pulled out its two Ministers -- Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Y.S. Chowdary -- from the Modi government. The TDP is the first party to leave the coalition since it came to power at the Centre in 2014.
Reacting to the development, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said the Centre was committed to giving Andhra Pradesh a special package equivalent to a special category state and has been "endlessly waiting" for the state government to revert on mechanism of receiving it.
Jaitley said the modalities of giving the special package were agreed way back in September 2016 but the state government only in January this year suggested a change in route of receiving funds, to which the Centre agreed but has not heard from it ever since.
"A solution has been put on the table. It is for Andhra Pradesh to decide whether they want the resources or they want to make an issue (out of it)," he told PTI here.
The Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has 16 MPs in the 545-member Lok Sabha, first pulled out its ministers from the Narendra Modi government and yesterday decided to quit the alliance itself.
The party, which is in power in Andhra Pradesh, had been demanding greater financial assistance to make up for the disadvantage it has been put to since its division in 2014.
Jaitley, however, said the Centre has been fully committed to giving the promised funds to the state and there has been no delay on its part.
He said the so-called special category status cannot be given to Andhra Pradesh in its literal sense after implementation of the award of 14th Finance Commission, which deals with sharing of central government's financial resources with the states.
The constitutionally-mandated Commission gave increased share of states fund in central taxes to 42 per cent from 32 per cent previously and meeting revenue deficit in case any state needs to be extraordinarly compensated.
The minister said a special category state gets to pay just 10 per cent share of the money to be spent on a centrally sponsored scheme in comparison to general category states having to pay 40 per cent. The remaining 90 per cent in case of special category states and 60 per cent in general category states is borne by the Centre.
The 30 per cent equivalent advantage that the special category states had was agreed to be given to Andhra Pradesh for five years. "We found a solution on September 16, 2016 that instead of a special category, we will give a special package," he said adding the funds equivalent to 30 per cent additional funding was to be met in some other form.
Andhra Pradesh, he said, suggested that this should come to it in form of external aided projects wherein the repayment is 90 per cent borne by the Centre and 10 per cent by the state.
Also read | Andhra Pradesh special status issue: TDP quits NDA, moves no-trust motion; govt says ‘we are ready’
"We agreed," he said.But in January this year, Andhra Pradesh changed its stance and said it should come via NABARD, Jaitley said adding the Centre told the state that such funding would increase its fiscal deficit and restrict borrowing space.
So it was suggested that a special purpose vehicle be created into which NABARD can transfer funds. The Centre would have repaid such funds to the extent of 90 per cent, he said.
"On February 7 their officers said they will find out the details and come. No one has come till now," he said. "We have been literally waiting for them to come."
"The Centre has always been willing to give and there is no delay on our part," he said. "The changeover has been done in January by Andhra Pradesh not by us."
On meeting the revenue deficit faced by the state due to carving out of Telangana, Jaitley said 14th Finance Commission has already calculated the funds for 2015 to 2020, which the Centre will pay.
For the 10 months prior to that, the deficit can be calculated either by taking the 2013-14 as the base or by extrapolating revenue of 2015-16. In the first case only Rs 138 crore is left to be paid and if the second is used, Rs 1,600 crore is due. "We have said take it," he said.
"We have been waiting endlessly for a response from them to resolve the issue," he added.
Reacting sharply, Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu wrote a letter addressed to BJP President Amit Shah, saying they felt it pointless to continue in NDA as the union government failed to discharge its constitutional responsibilities in implementing 'Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act,2014' in letter and spirit.
He pointed out that on most of the crucial provisions of the Act, and the assurances given in the Rajya Sabha, the progress was 'tardy, unsatisfactory and disappointing.'
In the four-page letter, the TDP chief, however, did not mention about the 'collusion' between BJP and other parties (YSR Congress and Jana Sena) that he alleged in the morning during a teleconference with party politburo members and MPs.
"Joined alliance with expectation that our people will get justice. We hoped that our state will get fair treatment.When our being in the alliance doesn’t serve that purpose, we feel that it is pointless to continue," Naidu said in his letter to Amit Shah.
"Today, a feeling is gaining ground in our state that BJP is not sensitive to the aspirations of our people," the letter read.
Meanwhile, Amit Shah is expected to hold a meeting with the core group of the party's Andhra Pradesh unit today. The meeting comes as the BJP finds itself in a tight corner in Andhra Pradesh after the TDP and YSR Congress moved notices for a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha against the Modi government.
Shah is likely to review the political situation in Andhra Pradesh and strategise over his party's options in the state, which sends 25 members to the Lok Sabha and where assembly polls will be held along with the parliamentary elections next year.
The party has already asserted that the TDP's decision to sever ties with it is a timely opportunity for it to grow in the state.
(With PTI inputs)