The BJP leadership seems have adopted the classic “if you cannot convince them, confuse them”, in approaching the Capital conundrum in Andhra Pradesh
The Capital debate in Andhra took a full round after Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan’s lent his approval to the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill, 2020, triggering reactions from all around. TDP, the principal opposition party, farmers and residents from Amaravati resented the move. While the ruling party YSRCP and the main opposition TDP have always fought over the three capital issue, the BJP seems to be looking to make political gains from this.
Former BJP State president Kanna Lakshminarayana and party leaders closer to the State like Rajya Sabha MP Y.S. Chowdary have been arguing that Amaravati would remain the capital as the BJP Government in New Delhi remains “committed” to it. In fact, the former has even written a letter to Governor Biswa Bhusan Harichandan urging him not to give assent.
Perhaps it was this stance of Kanna Lakshminarayana that made him lose his position as the state President of the BJP. Soon after on 27 July 2020, Somu Veerraju was appointed as the BJP state President for Andhra Pradesh. Veerraju himself, a veteran leader and MLC, had been the frontrunner for this position ever since 2018.
Some activists and opposing farmers moved to the Andhra Pradesh High Court, opposing the state governor’s assent, alleging that the bill is pending in the State Legislative Council. In its last hearing on Friday (14 August 2020), the High Court adjourned the matter till 27 August and extended the status quo to ensure no activity pertaining to 3 capitals is taken up by the Andhra Pradesh Government.
Furthermore, conversations in media circles indicate that the Union Government in Delhi remains committed to Amaravati. The de facto head of the BJP and current PM Shri Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone with then CM N. Chandrababu Naidu, hence the party’s intent to make Amaravatithe only capital of the State. It appears that with the appointment of Somu Veerraju, the BJP is testing waters as to what stance would suit the party best in the not so near future.
Veerraju’s appointment is also interesting for another reason. Somu Veerraju has been a longstanding critic of N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Telugu Desam Party. He has spoken in diplomatic terms about the three capitals decision and often showered praises on Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his policies.
Recently, BJP National General secretary Ram Madhav clarified that the Union Government’s role remains limited in states decision on capital while stating that the government in Delhi can only follow what is to be done as per the Indian Constitution. However, Madhav questioned the government in bitter remarks by stating what’s the need for having three capitals when a state like Uttar Pradesh with three times the population has just one.
If that’s not all, the BJP has been the target of scathing criticism for this confusing stance. As mentioned, the BJP local leadership remains divided on Y.S. Jagan’s decision, the Union Home Ministry in it’s recent affidavit to the High Court cleared that the Union Government has no role in deciding the State’s capital.
Some political analysts have commented, albeit anonymously, that this is the classic “if you cannot convince them, confuse them” strategy at play. In contrast, others have called it the testing of waters by the BJP in AP. Needless to say that the BJP appears to have some serious aspirations with far-reaching consequences in Andhra Pradesh.