AMARAVATI: While all political parties in Andhra Pradesh, the ruling Telugu Desam in the forefront, are demanding special status for their state, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley reiterated that special status was not possible.
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, he said the special package that has been announced by the Centre is better than special status and there is no difference between the two. He said funds will be allotted according to the Finance Commission’s recommendations but not on the basis of regional sentiments.
He explained that the BJP backed the special category status at the time of state bifurcation because there was a provision for it at that time, “but later the 14th Finance Commission recommended that no state will be given special status, so we are following that recommendation. We are not giving special status to any state.”
Mr Jaitley said that the Centre is committed to giving AP financial assistance equivalent to what a special category state gets. He said one should think what the benefits are by giving special status to any state. He said that he agreed with the assessment that Andhra Pradesh was financially suffering after Telangana was carved out of it and his government will honour each and every commitment made by the Centre at the time of bifurcation.
He said that after the implementation of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations, special treatment is now constitutionally restricted to just the North Eastern and three hilly states.
When asked about AICC president Rahul Gandhi’s promise to give special status to AP if his party is voted to power, Mr Jaitley replied: “I still have to follow constitutional award of the 14th Finance Commission.”
He said the Centre has already released Rs 4,000 crore towards revenue gap and the balance is only Rs 138 crore. He said that the Centre is committed to giving 90 per cent of the funds equivalent to special status through other means like external agencies. He said that the Centre is willing to accept the state government’s suggestion of routing funds through Nabard. He said a special purpose vehicle will be created through which to channel the funds to AP and the Centre is also thinking to repay that amount.