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Activist's death triggers outrage in Andhra

Hyderabad - Congress activist B Munni Kama Koti set himself ablaze at a party rally in Tirupati last weekend in protest against the Centre's assertion that no state would be accorded special category status.

By P S Jayaram

Published: Wed 12 Aug 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 12 Aug 2015, 9:18 AM

The demand for special category status for Andhra Pradesh has gained a sense of political urgency following the death of Congress activist B Munni Kama Koti on Sunday who had set himself ablaze at a party rally in Tirupati last weekend in protest against the Centre's assertion that no state would be accorded special category status.
Koti, who had suffered 80 per cent, died at the Kilpauk Hospital in Chennai where he was undergoing treatment. The Congress worker's death has given the opposition YSR Congress, Congress and the Left parties a major opportunity to slam the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government for not effectively pursuing the special category status issues with the NDA government at the Centre despite being an alliance partner.
Besides, the contradictory statements being made by BJP and TDP leaders on the issue have further complicated the issue, leading to a widening rift between the two allies themselves.
Consequently, theTDP has been caught in a piquant situation as it faces political embarrassment for having failed to convince the BJP central leadership about the need to bail out the cash-strapped state.
The AP Reorganisation Act, passed in February 2014 when UPA was in power, had promised special state status for the residual AP after the state's division for a period of five years. However, there has been no progress on the issue during the last one year despite the TDP being part of the central government.
Following Koti's death, the Congress and YSRC have hit the streets blaming the TDP-BJP combine for denial of justice to the state grappling with financial constraints.
During a debate in the Lok Sabha recently, the Union Minister of State for Home Indrajit Singh said that no state would be given special status and that even in the case of Bihar a special package was promised but was not special category status. This has angered the parties, across the political spectrum.
While YSRC has announced that it will hold a protest in New Delhi next week to bring pressure on the Centre, the CPI had launched a bus yatra to mobilize people on the issue.
The special status was promised to residual AP, comprising Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions, by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February 2014 to put the state's finances on a "firmer footing." "We will provide for a special development package for the backward regions of the successor state of AP. The resource gap that may arise in the successor state in the very first year will be compensated in the regular Union Budget for 2014-15," Singh had assured.
Facing mounting pressure from the opposition and also from within, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu asserted that his party and the government would continue to fight for special status. Pointing out that the division of AP was not done in an equitable manner by the previous UPA government, Naidu said that the demand for special status was meant to ensure justice to the state.
"Because developing the state is an uphill task, the Union Government must accord special status and also help the state to recover from a severe revenue deficit and extend full co-operation until it achieves a level-playing field," the chief minister said.

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