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Arun Jaitley skirts Special Category Status for AP

Fri, Jul 29, 2016, 05:58 PM
However much the Congress and those interested in the Special Category Status label for Andhra Pradesh may strive for, the SCS was virtually ruled out by leader of the House Arun Jaitley on Friday on the ground that India is a Union of States and future progressive State cannot aspire for it, even if a previous governnment had made an announcement. Instead he suggested hand-holding till such time as the State is on a firmer footing.

He was rounding off discussions on the Private Member Bill of KVP Ramachandra Rao in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.

Without conceding much except for sweet talk, Jaitley clarified matters quoting facts and figures which appeared to have incensed his alliance partner the TDP. While not exhibiting their anger, Science Minister Sujana Chowdary and TDP MP CM Ramesh took the extraordinary step of intervening and puttting questions to the leader of the House even as he continued his litany about Finance Commission, devolution of funds, ratios of apportioning funds and so on.

While the TDP members were posing questions, the Congress members shouted in a hoarse voice. Their leader, Digvijay Singh, who is in charge of party affairs for the Telugu States, said real hand-holding had to be done for AP. Fiscal deficit is inherent for the State.

Stating that both the Telugu States were potentially progressive, he virtually ruled out the SCS for AP. He disappointed both the States, which were awaiting some special treatment.

The only concession the Centre made in terms of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations was 42% general devolution plus deficit finance plus grant. As a result, AP which should have got Rs 64575.33 crore normally has got three times the amount. He was not sure of the figure. He said two different figures. But this was no special in case of AP. West Bengal and Kerala, too, have got the same facility.

The 2% tax incentive is a pittance. It's not substantial. The recommendations of the 14th Fginance Commission is not quantified. The Cabinet decision of the previous government does not hold good today. No Special Category Status as for the hill States applied to Andhra Pradesh. `My party is dissatisfied with the answer given by the leader of the Opposition. We are staging a walk-out,' said Digvijay while leaving the House.

The Congress members from the backbenches shouted to glory without anything being audible and staged a walk-out. Thus ends this episode of the KVP Ramachandra Rao Bill that made the whole Upper House sit up and discuss.

Earlier, the Finance Minister said everything for Andhra Pradesh was in the pipeline. When he said Rs 2050 crore had been given to AP for capital construction, Ramesh intervened to suggest Rs 1000 crore of the amount was meant for laying sewer lines in Guntur, which meant there was only Rs 1050 crore for surface structures.

Sujana Chowdary wanted the House to pass a resolution to safeguard the interests of AP. The Chair reminded him that he was in the Council of Ministers, meaning he cannot ask questions in the House.

When the leader quoted India is a Union of States, he said the Centre can only give funds available to it, which are not inexhaustible.

While India was supposed to be doing good on the economic front, Jaitley pointed out that world economy was adverse for the third year in a row, as if that had a bearing on declaring SCS for AP.

He was not at his best while giving the reply. That was clear from his skirting the pointed questions put by the opposition, including CPIM's Sitaram Yechury who put a straight question, `Are you giving the SCS or not?'

To this, the Chair explained that whatever was there in the AP Reorganisation Act would be carried out, which the minister pointed out earlier. The Congress had already taken care of that by putting the SCS in the AP Reorganisation Bill and deleting it from the Act.

Jaitley advised the votaries of SCS not to play politics with the demand. We go by the law. We go by the Finance Commission recommendations only. Beyond that nothing can be done.
Agency: Ap7am Desk

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