Once again, Bhogapuram is in the news as the AP Government readies to implement its aspirational three-capital plan. Situated at a distance of just 50 kilometers from the planned executive capital, it remains to be seen whether Bhogapuram will serve as an alternative for Visakhapatnam.
Bhogapuram is situated in the Vizianagaram district and lies in close proximity to Visakhapatnam; Visakhapatnam – the planned executive capital for the state of Andhra Pradesh as part of the three capitals plan. Bhogapuram has been in news ever since the announcement of the Bhogapuram Airport in 2015 by then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. A project which finally took off in February 2019. It was on 14 of February last year that Chandrababu Naidu laid the foundation stone for the Bhogapuram Greenfield Airport Development Project. The project was aimed at reducing the continuously increasing passenger load on the Visakhapatnam airport as well as cater to the districts of Vizianagaram and Srikakulam. With a change of government in Andhra Pradesh, the project was temporarily shelved only to be picked up in December 2019. Around the same time, when the YSRCP government announced its plans to have three capitals in Andhra Pradesh.
Since, the three-capital plan of the current YSRCP government was made public it has hit many roadblocks. First, in the legislative council the bill was referred to a committee. Then, the government was embarrassed when its representatives went to ask for funds from the Central Government as the plan itself was unaffordable. If that was not enough, the public sentiment also turned against them when the citizens of Andhra Pradesh realised how unrealistic the plan was. Most recently, the government decided to circumvent all democratic processes and approach the Governor for his ascent. The two deadly disasters in Visakhapatnam have further deteriorated public confidence in the ghastly three-capital plan of Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Two years into the Chandrababu Naidu government, infrastructure giants GMR, GVK, Adani Ports, Essel Infra, Tata and Airports Authority of India had already expressed keen interest in developing the greenfield airport. For it was the confidence investors had in the previous government that made them do so. While the government of the day might try to showcase the previous government in poor light, the fact remains that it is the previous government’s investments and projects that have come to its rescue in moments of economic mismanagement. Once the three-capital plan was announced to the public, the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government decided to look for projects that would aid in the development of the three capitals. This was one of the very few instances around the world when a decision was made before assessment of available resources. As is characteristic of the YSRCP, the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government announced reverse tendering of the Bhogapuram Airport project as well. And, after a long drawn process of reverse tendering, the AP government awarded the contract for construction and operations to GMR Group on a PPP basis. The GMR group operates airports in Hyderabad, New Delhi and another one in the Philippines. It was finally in June 2020 that the GMR Visakhapatnam International Airport Limited (GVIAL) signed the concession agreement for development and operation of a greenfield international airport at Bhogapuram with Andhra Pradesh Government.
While the reorganisation (three capitals) bill remains pending with the Governor, the government remains busy exploring ways to find land in and around Visakhapatnam. Here, the Bhogapuram Airport Project is of special relevance because in June 2020, as part of the reverse tendering done by the YSRCP government, the project land allocation was reduced from the earlier 2,703 acres to about 2,200 acres. Murmurs among media circles indicate that the government is planning to divert 500 acres from the acquired 2,703 acres worth of land for the Bhogapuram Airport project. Sources indicate that the government has just completed a field survey in areas extending well beyond coastal Visakhapatnam.
Plans are afoot and tenders allotted for road widening, designing from Visakhpatnam to Bhogapuram via Bhimili. It is almost certain that the surplus land from the Airport project will be used for setting up departments related to the executive capital development. Development works for 360 square kilometers worth of land between Visakhapatnam and Bhogapuram have already been initiated and HCP Design, Planning & Management Private Limited, a renowned Gujarati firm has bagged the contract. Yet again, the YSRCP government has illustrated its lack of experience and ineptitude by diverting land from one project to another and selectively sidelining its criticism of the TDP’s development works in the State. Only time will tell if the executive capital comes up in Visakhapatnam or the actual site is shifted to Bhogapuram and Visakhapatnam is turned into a namesake capital.