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Should TDP divorce NDA ?

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu announced that the TDP’s two ministers in the Modi government would resign. Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu (centre) addresses the media with cabinet colleagues late on Wednesday night. Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu (centre) addresses the media with cabinet colleagues late on Wednesday night. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) said that its ministers would quit the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre after failing in its bid to secure special category status for Andhra Pradesh. The decision came amid a persistent deadlock between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the NDA, and the TDP over the issue, with the latter stalling Parliament for the third consecutive day. The Narendra Modi government refused to give in to the demand while making placatory gestures towards its largest ally in southern India. The TDP announced that its two ministers in the Modi government, aviation minister P Ashok Gajapati Raju and junior minister for science and technology YS Chowdhury, would quit. Before the announcement, TDP leaders said the BJP had pushed them to a position where taking a “tough stand” was the only option left. Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu said he will take a call on whether or not to remain in the NDA before the second leg of the budget session ends. The TDP has 16 members in the Lok Sabha and six in the Rajya Sabha. To be sure, the BJP and the NDA have a comfortable majority, and the threatened pullout of TDP from the coalition would pose no crisis for the government. “As a first step, both our central ministers will resign from the Narendra Modi cabinet on Thursday morning,” Naidu told journalists late in the night. “With regard to alliance with the BJP, we will decide on party-to-party basis later,” he said. Naidu made the announcement after discussions with his party’s members of Parliament in Delhi through teleconference and his own cabinet ministers in the state secretariat in Amaravati, following an announcement by Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi categorically ruling out special category status to Andhra Pradesh. Naidu said Jaitley’s statement clearly indicated that the NDA government was not interested in resolving the crisis in Andhra Pradesh and coming to the rescue of the state, which, he said, had suffered in the aftermath of its 2014 bifurcation. “When the purpose of our joining the government is not served, we don’t have any option but to come out of it,” he said. He said that as a courtesy, he called up the Prime Minister’s Office to inform Modi of the decision. “I could not reach the prime minister on phone. Our officials informed the PMO of the decision,” the chief minister said. Politicians in the TDP familiar with the situation said the party had weighed several options, such as pulling out of the NDA, MPs resigning and ministers quitting the government, and it was decided that the divorce should be a step-by-step process. TDP leaders said pulling out ministers would send a signal to the BJP and will keep its hopes of special category status for Andhra Pradesh alive. If the demand is not met even after pulling out the ministers, the TDP will consider quitting the ruling coalition. In New Delhi earlier in the day, the Centre tried to pacify its ally, saying every commitment made during the 2014 bifurcation of the state to create Telangana would be honoured. “We are committed to giving monetary equivalent to special status to Andhra Pradesh,” finance minister Jaitley said. The minister said the special category status existed when the state was bifurcated, but such treatment is now constitutionally restricted to just the North-Eastern states and the three hilly states after the implementation of the 14th Finance Commission recommendations. Jaitley said the Centre is committed to funding all of Andhra Pradesh’s programmes to the tune of 90%, which is equivalent to the aid special category states get, through other means like external agencies. The Centre, he added, is even willing to accept the state government’s suggestion of routing such funds through the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). At meetings last month, the Centre suggested creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV; a company created for a specific purpose) with the funds from NABARD going into it. Jaitley said the Andhra Pradesh government is yet to come back on the modalities of such a transfer. The TDP also has to deal with rival YSR Congress Party headed by YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who has announced that his party MPs will resign from Parliament on April 6, the last day of the second leg of the budget session, if the demand for special category status is not met by April 5. YSR Congress won 8 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and remains TDP’s main rival in Andhra Pradesh, a state which Chandrababu Naidu won from the Congress after 10 years. Jagan Mohan Reddy has made special category status an election issue for the party. Of the total 175 assembly constituencies, the TDP won 102 seats in 2014. It doesn’t have to depend on the support of the four BJP legislators to maintain a majority, an advantage that Naidu wants to leverage. Naidu blamed state BJP leaders for launching a counter-attack on his government, rather than taking up the state’s issues with the Centre. “You cannot run away from your responsibility by attacking us. The 130-year-old Congress party was completely routed from AP for hurting the sentiments of the people. If you continue to hurt our sentiments by denying the special category status, which is our right, you will have to meet the same fate,” he said.

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Can Modi-Shah pull off a Tripura in Tamil Nadu?

With BJP's sweeping victory in the northeast, Modi and Amit Shah will now eye at expanding the party's voter base in TN. BJP has ambitious leaders who wish to see the party come to power in TN, but have seldom done enough to strengthen it at the ground level. Had someone foretold this five years ago, people would have laughed it away, as the saffron party had a mere 1.5% vote in the last elections. Despite this, if BJP was able to clinch a win in Tripura, why not Tamil Nadu, where the party has a vote share of around 3%? However, the similarity ends there. Unlike Tripura, in Tamil Nadu, the BJP’s vote share has remained stagnant for decades and peaked only twice in 1998 and 1999, when it came to power at the Centre under A B Vajpayee — but by aligning with the AIADMK or the DMK. The social fabric of Tamil Nadu is made of almost 40% dalits and minorities. Among the remaining 60%, the backward classes and the most backward classes have tailored in the causes of social justice and reservation. While the BJP lacks credible leadership of stature in Tamil Nadu, the stand taken by it on several issues have sent out a signal that it is against the interests of the state. "It may have won in Tripura and may win in Thiruvananthapuram. But, this BJP express cannot pass through Tamil Nadu," said AIADMK Rajya Sabha member, V Maitreyan. Lotus can bloom in Tamil Nadu if BJP wins in Karnataka and resolves Kaveri water issue, puts behind bars all corrupt party leaders in the state. Anything is possible.

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Is Pakora Politics Beneficial for the Nation ?

Chandigarh : The 'pakoda wars' were back with a vengeance when Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar dished out some saucy remarks to Congress workers selling hot fritters outside the state assembly. The Congress has been protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi's now infamous statement on job creation by setting up pakoda vends in various states, which has earned the ire of the ruling BJP. But Congress legislators got a surprise when CM Manohar Lal Khattar, en route to attend the budget session in the Haryana assembly, stopped by their 'rehri' (cart) and bought some pakodas. This, Khattar explained, was his way of helping the Congress party which was currently "unemployed", i.e. not in power, in the state. "If anyone is getting employment by selling pakodas, it's a good thing. They had become unemployed, but now they have got the pakoda-selling job, which is a good thing," the CM jibed. Later in the assembly, health minister Anil Vij lost no time in taking a swipe at the Congress by saying that his department would get the quality of pakodas examined. The Congress lawmakers, led by Kiran Choudhary, were offering pakodas to passersby before going to the state assembly as a protest against PM Modi's remarks likening selling pakodas to being employed. Holding the 'pakoras' in a basket, the Congress legislators tried to march towards the Assembly but they were stopped by the police.

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Soon, Jaipur to Delhi by train in 90 minutes is a faster process of Govt's "Make In India" Movement ?

Ministry of railways is planning to have a semi-high speed train on Jaipur-Delhi route which would run at a speed of up to 200 km/hour. The ministry has appointed an Italy-based railway engineering company to do a feasibility study for the project at its own cost. In its recent letter to the authorities of the NWR, the ministry has asked them to nominate ADRM, Jaipur as a member of project working group for the day-to-day interaction and coordination for the study. They have also been asked to nominate an officer who will act as Nodal Officer for the railway for day-to-day interaction with the railway board for the study. “They have asked us to share the pattern of operation between two stations, pattern of passenger’s load, pattern of freight train, their speed and length, feature of the tracks double or single, infrastructure of the track including bridges, platforms, signalling etc and number of level crossings between Jaipur and Delhi. We are compiling the details which would be sent to them in the next 10 days,” said a senior officer of NWR on the condition of anonymity. When contacted Tarun Jain, chief public relations officer, NWR, said, “Some details have been sought from us. Yes, it is a part of rail ministry’s initiative to introduce semi-high speed train. A company FS-Italferr will do a feasibility study.” The rail distance between Jaipur and Delhi is 309 kms/hour and the existing tracks between the two routes can attain a maximum speed of 110 kms/hour. Usually the trains on the track maintain a speed of 80 kms/hours to 95 kms/hours to cover the distance in 5 to 8 hours depending on the number of halts. With this project, people can think of completing the journey between the state capital and national capital in less than 2 hours.

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