TDP will be pivotal in government formation in 2019 but I have no PM ambitions, says Chandrababu Naidu

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu says his Telugu Desam Party will play a pivotal role in 2019 when regional parties band together to form government at the Centre but has ruled himself out of the prime ministerial race. The TDP chief, who sidestepped a question on whether the parties would take the support of the Congress should the need arise, was also scathing in his criticism of the BJP during an interaction with journalists late last night. Describing the BJP as a back door party that wanted to enter south India through unscrupulous means, Naidu said it should have helped Andhra Pradesh to gain access to the region. The BJP is only a back door party. It has a remote with which it controls its puppets, Naidu told a group of reporters at the conclusion of Mahanadu, the annual conclave of the TDP. He was responding to a question on whether the BJP had become the TDPs primary rival. The BJP declared that Karnataka is the gateway to South India. It is a bad statement. Now you want to enter through the back door. They should have realized it. They should have supported Andhra Pradesh, Naidu said. The TDP chief – who formally quit the BJP-led NDA earlier this year over special category to the state – said his party would play a decisive role in the formation of a government in New Delhi in 2019 but he himself had no prime ministerial ambitions. I do not have any prime ministerial ambitions. This post was offered to me twice in the past, he said, referring to 1996 when H D Deve Gowda became prime minister and 1997 when I K Gujral took the chair. I just want to develop Andhra, Naidu asserted. Suggesting that he would keep his cards close to his chest till the Lok Sabha elections, he said when asked if regional parties would seek the support of the Congress should the need arise, All these things are a matter of time. Right now, I do not want to create any confusion. About BJP chief Amit Shah alleging that the Andhra government had furnished false utilization certificates for the funds the Centre had sanctioned for Amravati, the proposed ultra-modern capital of the state, Naidu said, Shah is just the president of a party. In what capacity is he questioning us? The central minister concerned can visit Amravati to review the work. The prime minister can come and see what we are doing, the TDP chief added. Naidu also asked why Andhra Pradesh should pay taxes to the Centre, which had reneged on its promises of according special category status to Andhra Pradesh, giving full support for the Polavaram irrigation project and the choice of the states capital. During the bifurcation of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh, the BJP demanded a special status for the state and the Congress agreed, he said. The entire House accepted it. Why are you denying it now? he asked We struggled for 60 years to put Hyderabad on the world map and all of a sudden, they asked us to go. We came here debt-ridden, without assets and money. Is it not the Centres responsibility to give us a fair deal? According to Naidu, the BJP government had promised a special package for backward districts of Andhra Pradesh on the lines of the Bundelkhand region. But the saffron party cheated the people. The BJP government credited Rs 50 crore each for seven backward districts of AP and after some time it debited the amount, saying the Prime Ministers Office did not approve it. This is their cooperative federalism, Naidu said. Whatever the Centre is doing against us is making me stronger in Andhra Pradesh, he said. Asked about the resettlement of those affected by the Polavaram project, the chief minister said, The rehabilitation work has been completed to a certain extent. As and when the Centre gives the money, we will complete the remaining work. The Central government will have to give the money. It is our right and is mentioned in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act. They cannot go against it. If they do all these things. Why should we pay taxes to the Centre? Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not doing us any favours, he said.