New Delhi: TDP leader Y S Chowdary on Thursday said he and his colleague Ashok Gajapathi Raju were stepping down as ministers but would continue to be part of the NDA, a move that was necessitated by "unavoidable circumstances". Likening the decision to an unfortunate divorce, Chowdary, the Union minister of state for science and technology, said he and Raju, Union civil aviation minister, would continue to work as parliamentarians for Andhra Pradesh.

Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's announcement last night that his leaders would exit the cabinet came a few hours after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Centre can't offer special status to Andhra Pradesh, but would offer a special package with equivalent funding. "We will be happy when marriages happen, not when divorces happen. It is not a good move, but unfortunately due to unavoidable circumstances we had to take this move. We are stepping down as ministers, but our president has said we will be continuing as part of NDA," Chowdhary told reporters.

The beauty of democracy, he said, was to bring unanimity and make everyone happy and this was the BJP's responsibility. "When they are in responsible positions they will have to balance such things and during the process of balancing they will have to face such situations." Adding that Raju and he would continue to work in their personal capacities as parliamentarians and exert pressure to achieve their demand, he said, "All parliament members will work for this. We hope we will succeed in getting special status..."

The TDP has 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha. Asked about Congress president Rahul Gandhi's offer to give special status to Andhra Pradesh if the party came to power, he said it was a hypothetical situation. According to TDP MP Konagalla Narayana, Naidu waited for four years and the decision to withdraw the party's ministers was an outcome of his losing patience.

"The chief felt that during a fight for special status, it is not right to have our members in their cabinet. So he took this decision... now if they don't act, this agitation will be intensified," Narayana said. Another MP, Naramalli Sivaprasad, added that the BJP had considered them smaller all these days but would now understand their strength. Naidu had said yesterday that the TDP joined the NDA government only to protect the interests of Andhra Pradesh following its bifurcation but claimed the Centre was taking unilateral decisions without thinking about solutions to the state's problems.

The chief minister said he tried to speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over phone "as a courtesy" to inform him about the decision to pull out of the NDA government. "It is my responsibility as a coalition partner to inform the prime minister about our party decision. My OSD spoke to his OSD but the prime minister did not come on line," he said.