While delivering the inaugural address of the7 State’s Interim Budget, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy made a statement that is being seen by many as a veiled attack against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the Centre.
For the first time since he became Chief Minister, Mr. Reddy has made a statement that hints at the apathy of the Union government in giving Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh. He said that he wishes that no party comes to power with an absolute majority in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, as this leaves the State with little bargaining power. “A Central government dependent on the State would have conceded to our demands,” he said. Mr. Reddy added that Andhra would have tried to secure the SCS through all possible means, including by approaching the court, had the assurance of SCS been incorporated in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
This is an unusually aggressive posture by the Chief Minister against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Though Mr. Reddy had made SCS one of his main poll planks in 2019, he has been soft-pedalling the issue since, as his YSR Congress Party has always tried to maintain a good relationship with Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The YSRCP has supported the National Democratic Alliance both within and outside Parliament. Many Opposition leaders believe that though the YSRCP is not part of the NDA, it has more or less served as a loyal ally.
There are many examples of the YSRCP’s support of the Central government’s moves. Last year, the party voted against the ‘No Confidence’ motion moved by the Congress and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi. It also supported the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Bill, 2023. While 19 Opposition parties boycotted the inauguration of the new Parliament building, YSRCP MPs attended the event. Earlier, the regional party had also supported the election of the President and Vice President the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, the National Register of Citizens, the three farm laws that were later withdrawn by the government, and the dilution of Article 370.
All through this, while it is true that the party has been dissatisfied with the Central government for not granting the SCS to Andhra Pradesh, it has never been vociferous in its demand. The Opposition recognised this and saw in the situation an opportunity to attack Mr. Reddy.
Some political experts believe that Mr. Reddy’s comments are “opportunistic” since the dates of the general and Assembly elections will be announced soon. They also believe that he was forced into a corner as the Opposition has been upping its ante on the issue. But it is not just the YSRCP; the TDP-Jana Sena Party combine has not been resolutely calling for the SCS as both Chandrababu Naidu and Pawan Kalyan, the leaders of the two parties, respectively, have been seeking an alliance with the BJP to fight the 2024 elections together against the YSRCP. The JSP is already an ally of the BJP in Andhra Pradesh.
But the heat is picking from the Congress, which is in a resurgent mood in Andhra, especially after Mr. Reddy’s sister, Y.S. Sharmila, was made president of the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee earlier this year. Ms. Sharmila has demanded that the government hold a discussion in the floor of the Assembly on the “betrayal of the people of Andhra Pradesh by the BJP government at the Centre in the last 10 years” and pass a resolution on the “rights of the people of Andhra Pradesh” and send it to the Centre and the President for their approval. She also urged her brother and Mr. Naidu to wage a united war for securing the SCS.
Mr. Reddy’s comments on the SCS also come at a time when Mr. Naidu, who had been trying to warm up to the BJP, was once again called by Mr. Shah to New Delhi. It appears that the BJP and the TDp are trying to rework the alliance.
With the possibility of a BJP-TDP-JSP alliance likely, and with Ms. Sharmila resolving to continue fighting about the issue of SCS, Mr. Reddy appears to be compelled to once again rely on this issue to evoke sentiments and secure votes. This is an approach that worked not only for him in 2019 but also Mr. Naidu in 2014.