Why Modi govt cannot grant special status to Andhra Pradesh

The Telugu Desam Party, headed by N Chandrababu Naidu, walked out of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance on Friday over the issue of special status to Andhra Pradesh.

Although Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014 has no clause ensuring special status to the state, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said during a debate in Rajya Sabha that the newly formed state would be granted the special status for the period of five years.

The TDP has accused the Central government of not compensating the state adequately after Telangana was carved out of it in 2014. Andhra Pradesh suffered financially from the bifurcation and the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014, had also promised special status to Andhra Pradesh.

However, the 14th Finance Commission, whose recommendations were accepted by the Centre in 2015, has abolished the special status category. Special status is now only given to the northeastern and three hilly states.

These recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission were accepted in 2015, just one year after Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated.

Hence, the central government now cannot extend special status to any new state. It (special status) is restricted to the states which have already received it.

The Modi government, instead, has offered to provide ‘special assistance’ to Andhra Pradesh for five years. ‘Special assistance’ is a monetary equivalence of the special status.

This means that Andhra Pradesh would get all the financial benefits stipulated under special status category but would not formally receive the ‘special status’. The states with special status get 90 percent of the funds from the Centre for centrally sponsored schemes in comparison to 60 percent which other states are entitled to.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had clearly stated that the Centre is committed to disbursing 90 percent of the funds to Andhra Pradesh through external agencies. But the TDP insists that getting official ‘special status’ is of sentimental value for the citizens of the state.

Although the Constitution did not have any provision to grant special status to any state, the former Planning Commission-body National Development Council decided to help states with funds which were historically disadvantaged compared to others.

In 1969, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland were the first 3 states to receive special status from the Centre.

Apart from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha too are demanding special status.