With KCR seeking anti-BJP front, Centre steps up Jagan outreach
At a time when Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao is trying to bring together various regional parties to form an anti-BJP alliance, the BJP-led Centre seems to be going out of its way to “appease” his counterpart in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently told Parliament that the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh in 2014 was done hastily without proper consultation. While the PM’s statement pleased the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in Andhra Pradesh, it upset the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and other parties in Telangana.
On 17 February, when the TRS released full-page front page advertisements in newspapers to mark CM KC Rao’s birthday, the Union ministry of road transport and highways issued a full-page ad regarding its various national highway projects in Andhra Pradesh involving a total investment of Rs 21,559 crore.
Flanked by CM Reddy, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who was then visiting Vijayawada, described Andhra Pradesh as a “progressive state with a good potential for development”. Conceding the CM’s request apparently on the spot, he approved the Eastern Bypass to Vijayawada besides sanctioning 30 roads-over-bridges (RoBs) for the city reeling under traffic jams.
On the other hand, CM KCR has been spewing venom against the Modi dispensation for “giving a cold shoulder” to Telangana and not providing funds for irrigation and infrastructure projects to the state in the Union Budget. Telangana has been urging the Centre to grant national project status to the Rs 1 lakh crore-Kaleshwaram project, but to no avail.
After KCR upped the ante against the BJP following the TRS’s defeat in the Huzurabad bypoll last November, Rajya Sabha MP GVL Narasimha Rao put a question about the central funds given to Andhra Pradesh. In her reply, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the House that the Centre had given a financial assistance of Rs 36,029 crore to the state during 2019-2021. She said Andhra also received grants-in-aid from the Centre to the tune of Rs 26,587 crore as recommended by the 15th Finance Commission for 2020-21 and 2021-22. A month later, Jagan Mohan Reddy met PM Modi with a fresh wish list.
During his 17 February visit, Gadkari inaugurated 21 completed projects and laid foundation stone for 30 new projects, besides inaugurating the Western Bypass Flyover 2 in Vijayawada.
“The Union minister laid emphasis on development of infrastructure and improved road connectivity for the growth of industry and agriculture besides extending all help from the Centre in the development process,” CM Reddy said. Gadkari said the CM had requested the Centre in August 2019 for the Western Bypass Flyover 2, which was immediately cleared. “Even the Kanaka Durga Temple Flyover was completed with the help from the Centre after YSRCP came to power,” he added.
Stressing that the expansion and development of highways has been the Centre’s priority, Gadkari lauded Jagan Mohan Reddy for allocating Rs 10,600 crore for the state highways. He said that Rs 6,400 crore was allocated for connecting the district headquarters to mandals through two-lane highways, Rs 2,300 crore for their repair and maintenance, and Rs 1,700 crore for the pending works.
The Union Minister was all praise for the Andhra CM, calling him a “young and dynamic leader who is taking the state forward”. He said the development of the state’s two main ports would boost employment generation, revenue and connectivity for which, he added, the Centre would extend all help to the state.
Gadkari also assured CM Reddy that by 2024 the Centre would spend 3 lakh crore for development of roads in the state. Of the 23 greenfield express highway projects the ministry has taken up, 6 are in Andhra Pradesh, which include Raipur–Visakhapatnam to be completed by 2024; Nagpur to Vijayawada highway to be completed by 2025; and Chittoor-Tanjavur highway and Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam and Bangalore Chennai highway, all of which would be completed by 2025.
Gadkari also said the Centre would like to see the Polavaram project completed soon as it would benefit farmers.
In another outreach, on February 18, the Centre sent NTPC CMD Gurudeep Singh to meet CM Reddy and “discuss possibilities for collaborating with the AP government for renewable energy, pumped storage, and efficiency in power sector etc.”