On November 1, 2019 when the Government of India released official political map, in the backdrop of J&K reorganisation as UT, Andhra Pradesh is the only one which was shown as a State without a capital city. The much publicised then CM Chandrababu Naidu’s dream city of ‘international standard’ Amravati was surprisingly not considered as the capital by the centre as Chandrababu Naidu in his hurry for publicity has not issued a gazette notification for capital city for his State. Taking that technical issue to his advantage the maverick Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is playing with the future of the State and people by creating more than one capital. This unrealistic not workable model of three capital cities is opposed by every political party in the state and people are agitating for over a month. Despite all this Jagan bulldozed through his majority and got the Bill approved in the Assembly the state of Andhra Pradesh, as and when the Bill crosses the Council, Legal and constitutional hurdles, is going to be unique in India with small area but with three capitals in the form of Legislative Capital in Amaravati, the Executive Capital in Visakhapatnam and the Judicial capital in Kurnool all the three separated by around 600 Km from each other. Many CMs served in this country in different times for different states but no sensible CM ever thought of creating more than one capital as they have rational thinking and respect to the democratic principle of continuity of governance unlike Jagan, the CM of AP.
Post bifurcation Act of Andhra Pradesh, the government headed by Chandrababu Naidu chose Amaravati as the new capital and it was endorsed by Jagan as then Opposition leader. People certainly differed with Chandrababu Naidu’s developmental model of Amaravati and questioned the very concept of that Green Field modern city on fertile land of nearly 50,000 acres. The only success to the credit of Chandrababu Naidu was the acquiring over 30,000 acres of land from the farmers under a innovative land pooling scheme through which the donor farmers are made partners in the future financial gains in the developed area. Nothing went as planned for Chandrababu Naidu and his game of using Amaravati project for enhancing his political clout and helping his own men through ‘inside trading’. Voters doubted his intention and rejected him in 2019 elections. Other political mistakes added to his loss of face in the State.
But it doesn’t mean that Jagan can do as he pleases regarding the capital city. Amaravati was declared as the capital city by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he laid the foundation for the capital city at Amaravati and released over Rs 2500 crore for the construction of main buildings of administration. Thus the capital Amaravati now has a workable Assembly, Council buildings, a secretariat and High Court buildings. The ultra modern police head quarter on par with any other established State was constructed. The other facilities like quarters for the Legislatures, higher bureaucracy and judges of High Court are in different stages of completion. A realistic estimation of another Rs 5000 crore is what Amaraviti needed to complete a capital look in addition to the Rs 10,000 crore investments are already made to provide infrastructure.
It is against this backdrop that Jagan’s decision to shift capital from Amaravati which involves additional investment of over Rs 3000 crore for developing the facilities at three different locations is being questioned by the concerned people across the society. Andhra Pradesh has been a revenue deficit State for the last six years and this State is burdened with 2.56 lakh crore debt and the Jagan’s Government is reportedly surviving financially on a day to day basis. Any sensible CM would have set his priority on revenue generation and planned spending and exhibited his skills in administration to present him as new kind of leader. But Jagan by nature is not known for political niceties and is more known as a man with vindictive and narcissist traits.
It was his personal political battle with Chandrababu Naidu which got preference over the interests of the State. There is no other rational explanation for the sudden shifting of Capital as this three capitals idea was not a promise made in their election manifesto. Moreover, when the rumours of shifting of capital city, if Jagan is elected , were doing rounds during the poll campaign every leader of YSR Party including party supremo Jagan chose to go on record putting aside the rumours and stressing that Amaravati will be retained as the capital. So now naturally people feel the pinch of deceit of Jagan who always proclaims and project himself as the one who never goes back on his word.
Surprisingly no rational explanation is worth coming beyond the “the three capitals concept is an idea to decentralise power across Andhra Pradesh” whatever may be the meaning of that. “Our focus is equitable development” was the claim made by the Jagan’s colleague and Minister for Municipal administration B. Satyanaraana. There is no visible model where development picked up by mere location of few important government buildings. The very concept of development seems to be misunderstood by Jagan and his advisors. Take any other state including very big State like UP where the entire administration is controlled from Lucknow or the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu where the capital is in Chennai but there are other developed places like Coimbatore, Trichi, Salem, Tirupur, Hosur all because of planning and allocation of developmental projects from Chennai.
The other issues mentioned during the debate in the assembly includes the ‘inside trading’ by then ruling TDP leaders, the location of Amaravati in flood prone area and high cost involved in the development of the city. All these which the finance Minister Rajendranadh Reddy choose to build his argument on the three capitals concept fell flat in argument and are all termed as shallow by experts in the concerned fields. There is no other project in India where those close to the rulers ever failed to get undue benefit and Amaravati is no excetion. One has to expose that inside trading and punish the guilty and the government can even reclaim the lands for public purpose but shifting the capital city itself is not the correct course of action. Only fools will burn the home to eliminate the menace of rats.
That Amaravati was given clearance by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) was a fact and the report which Jagan group attributed to Madras IIT civil engineering department is found to be a bogus one as the IIT M has denied taking any such work on the Amaravati soil.
The third reason is said to be the cost of development. Jagan claims that his government has no money to invest on Amaravati as that requires, according to their own estimation, over a lakh crore. No city ever got development overnight. All the big cities in the country made their strides from scratch and Amaravati should also develop over a period of time. Now that the government is holding the land it can wisely use that land to attract investments by offering the land. Only a wise planning is needed for a capital city and any attempt to thinly spread the government resources on the three different capitals is ultimately gives no fillip to any one city. It may help Jagan to mock at Chandrababu Naidu but will not certainly enhance his own image. Already people of Andhra Pradesh are recollecting the capital shift made by Mohammad bin Thuglaq few centuries back and are mocking that by clubbing Thuglak and Jagan and coining a new name ‘Jhuglaq’.
Local politics apart it is high time for the Centre to intervene in the entire episode and bring the maverick Jagan to his senses by providing wise counsel. The current situation may also be an excellent opportunity for the BJP for making its presence in Andhra Pradesh.
(The writer is Vijaywada based freelance journalist)