Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday promised to give special category status to Andhra Pradesh if his party is voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. “[Former Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh committed to the state that we will give special status [in 2014],” he said at an election rally in Vijaywada.
The Congress scion said Andhra Pradesh will get what it deserves. “It wasn’t just an individual who committed but the prime minister of India who promised it,” said Gandhi. “And it was the commitment of a prime minister on behalf of the nation.”
The Congress-led UPA government had promised special status to Andhra Pradesh during the bifurcation of Telangana in February 2014. But the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government refused it on grounds that the Finance Commission’s new rules bar special status for all states except those in the hills. The disagreement eventually led to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party walking out of the NDA. The Telugu Desam Party was the NDA’s third-largest constituent in the Lok Sabha with 16 MPs, and its only ally in the south.
Gandhi said he was surprised that the parties in the state were “not aggressively pushing [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi to give Andhra Pradesh what it has been promised”.
The state will have Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously on April 11. There are 25 Parliamentary seats and 175 Assembly seats in Andhra Pradesh. The Congress has not allied with any party in the state. In 2014, the Congress was washed out in both Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
The Congress chief said his party’s proposed minimum income guarantee scheme, abbreviated NYAY, is a “non-violent weapon” that will uplift the poorest. Under the scheme, the poorest 20% families of the country will get an income support of Rs 72,000 per annum.
Gandhi added that while the previous Congress-led UPA government had come up with poverty eradication schemes, Modi dismantled those. “He destroyed the pillars of MGNREGA and Food Security Act,” the Congress alleged. Gandhi alleged that while Modi did “surgical strikes against the poor”, his party will carry it out against poverty.
At a rally in Kalyandurg later on Sunday, Congress promised farm loan waiver for farmers in Andhra Pradesh. “There were recent elections in North India and in the three states we promised farm loan waiver within 10 days if we came to power,” he said. “And I am proud to say that within two days, we waived all farm loans in the three states. And I want to commit the same here in Andhra Pradesh. If you vote for a Congress government, we will waive all farm loans.” he said.