Being the third largest opposition party in the present Lok Sabha after Congress and DMK, the YSR Congress Party has been offered the deputy speaker’s post.
However, the party supremo and Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy is not in a position to accept the post because of his political compulsions back home. Accepting the post would send a signal to the people in Andhra Pradesh that he has compromised on his demand for special category status (SCS) to the state. He has already declared that his fight for the special status would continue. It would also mean establishing friendly ties with the BJP, a prospect that may not go down well with the minorities who form the key support base of his party.
Though YSRCP, which has 22 MPs, has adopted a ‘non-confrontationist’ approach towards the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre, it does not want to be seen as an ally of the saffron party. Already, there is a perception in political circles that Jagan might be willing to strike a deal with the BJP leadership in return for a relief in the ongoing CBI case against him pertaining to the alleged disproportionate assets.
Savouring a resounding public mandate in the April 11 elections, Jagan is also aware of his limitations in terms of influencing the central government. “They don’t need our numbers. We need to work with them in an atmosphere of mutual understanding and cordiality,” a close aide of Jagan said.
Soon after taking over the reins of the state, Jagan had told the media that he would continue to demand special status to Andhra Pradesh like a ‘nagging child’ till the Centre concedes the demand.
“Whenever I get to meet the Prime Minister or central ministers, I will be reminding them about the special status demand and will try to convince them how it would transform the state,” Jagan said.
After having made the SCS issue the centrality of its election campaign, the YSRCP cannot afford to accept any constitutional position in the NDA government without its key demand being met.
In fact, addressing the first meeting of his party MPs in Delhi on Saturday (June 15), the Chief Minister made it clear to them that they must take up the special status issue with the Centre at every forum and there should be no compromise on it.
“It is true that we are not in a fighting mode with the Centre. However, we will not step back on special status issue. We will use every opportunity within and outside the Parliament to keep this issue alive,” the YSRCP Parliamentary Party leader V Vijay Sai Reddy said.
According to party sources, the offer of deputy speaker’s post was conveyed to Jagan when the BJP MP and spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao called on him in Vijayawada earlier this week. During the meeting, described by both parties as a courtesy call, the Chief Minister sought more time to take a call on the proposal. Later, he decided against accepting the offer, keeping in view the possible adverse political implications.
With the YSRCP declining the proposal, the BJP leadership is likely to offer the post to either Shiv Sena (18 MPs) or Janata Dal (United) (16 MPs), both NDA allies.
Jagan needs to reconcile to the harsh reality of an unresponsive central government as far as his SCS demand is concerned. The Centre has made it amply clear that no state would be accorded special status in future since such a categorisation has become infructuous in the light of the report of the 14th Finance Commission.
Though the emotive issue of special status was one of the key campaign themes in Andhra elections, the new government needs to look beyond the rhetoric and get down to the business of clearing up the economic mess through effective governance and prudent financial management.
“We are aware of the reality. The NDA doesn’t need our support or anybody’s support for that matter. We can only keep on requesting it to grant special status because it was a promise made by both the national parties on the floor of the Parliament. And, we need it to stabilise ourselves and attract industrial investments,” Jagan said.
The YSRCP supremo is aware of his political compulsions and has adopted a conciliatory tone with regard to his equation with the Centre. “Though Modi doesn’t need our support, I have requested him to be magnanimous and help our state to tide over the difficult situation. He is already in a position of strength. And, if someone in that position displays magnanimity, it will be remembered,” the Chief Minister said.
Confrontation with the Centre is certainly not an option for Jagan as he has inherited messy finances and needs generous help from the Union government to fund the ongoing projects as mentioned in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act.
“If the NDA government’s actions are good for people, we will support even though they don’t require our numbers,” he said, indicating the nature of his future engagement with the Centre.