The Centre is committed to give Andhra Pradesh funds equivalent to what it would have got with the special category status but it cannot get the recognition itself as the provision does not exist any more, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Wednesday. He said the Centre is awaiting a response from the state on this suggestion, PTI reported.
Jaitley said he was “personally very sympathetic” to the state, as it had “suffered after its bifurcation” in 2014. However, the 14th Finance Commission has now revoked the special category status for states, he said, referring to a decision in 2015 after the panel’s recommendations were accepted.
“We are willing to satisfy every condition,” Jaitley said. “The only variation is that after Finance Commission’s report, instead of formally calling it a ‘special category state’, we are calling it a ‘special package’, which gives same monetary benefits that a special category state gives you.”
He said the Centre does not have “free-floating funds” and sentiment cannot determine the funds it gives states. “Every state in India has a right to same central funds in the same manner,” he said, adding that states in the North East were earlier given special category status because their own revenue was inadequate.
Jaitley’s statement came a day after the Telugu Desam Party legislators voted in favour of ending the party’s alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party for refusing to financially help Andhra Pradesh. Ties between the two parties have increasingly become strained over the allocation of funds to the state in the Union Budget.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has said the state requires “hand-holding by the Centre” for a few years to ensure that it can compete with other states in the region.
The first half of the Budget Session, which ended on February 9, was marked by frequent adjournments after protests by leaders from the state. Proceedings have been disrupted for the last three days as well.
On Tuesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had backed Andhra Pradesh’s demand and urged the Centre to pay Andhra Pradesh its dues at once. He also promised the state the state special category status if his party comes to power at the Centre in 2019.