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Emulating South Africa – The Rationale behind AP’s 3-capital Decision

by Sharath
665 views Hyderabad

In December of 2019, the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy proposed the three capital framework in the Legislative Assembly. As per his proposal the present capital of AP – Amaravati would be turned into the state’s legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the executive capital and Kurnool as judicial capital. 

The proposed physical areas of the 3 capitals are spread across three different regions of the state – Amaravati in Central Andhra, Visakhapatnam in Northern Andhra and Kurnool in Rayalaseema. The Andhra Pradesh Government has passed a bill pertaining to division of these state organs in the assembly on 20 January 2020 and the bill has failed to pass in the council.

The YSRCP party had just 9 members in the Legislative Council while the TDP had a majority. On confronting this detour in the Legislative Council, Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy took a decision to scrap the Legislative Council and a resolution regarding the same has been passed by YSRCP Government in the Legislative Assembly.

The reasons given for division of state organs by the YSRCP Government lack any proper rationale. It is important to note that despite citing the Sivaramakrishnan Committee report for so long, Jagan Mohan Reddy and the YSRCP Government has not taken much from the report other than the idea of decentralization which remained only a cause of reference. The YSRCP Government has missed the  underlying aspects of decentralization, which is that decentralization of development and decentralization of power and authority are not the same. Furthermore, the separation of state organs to different locations doesn’t ensure decentralization of authority and power. The elements of the Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary are associated with each other and when we separate each of the three and relocate to three different regions the coordination among these bodies will force extra prudent weight and cause inconvenience to the people of the state. The move is but to be a huge logistical inconvenience and burden for the citizens. Not to mention the enormous financial costs that come along with such a plan.

The political commentators and developmental enthusiasts in the state have encouraged the move, but also expressed their doubts. The developmental decentralization in its core is identification and nurturing of the local resources, the government hand holding the small player to catch up with the contemporary markets, actively bridging the development gap. Unfortunately, the new Government in AP has been criticized for its attempts to revise the agreements signed by its predecessor and in some cases also withdrew or canceled the on-going projects. The one year rule of Jagan Mohan Reddy has clearly shown a lack of vision for development, certainly not a plan for decentralization.

The Chief Minister went on to say that the Government drew the idea from the three capital model of the Republic of South Africa. But the spatial and historic context of South Africa is way different from that of Andhra Pradesh. In the case of South Africa, the focus of the Government in the background of unification of provinces was to ensure balance of power and manage the large area of the country. 

In 1910, when the Union of South Africa was formed, there were debates and disputes about the area of the new nation’s capital city. A compromise was reached to ensure balance of power throughout the country and this led to the formation of three capital cities. It was presumed that having one capital will put too much power at the hands of one region.

In contrast to South Africa, in Andhra Pradesh there are no such extraordinary political and racial compulsions, particularly after the division of Telangana. People of Andhra Pradesh, in contrast to people of South Africa, are united by a typical language, culture, and ethos. This builds up the way that Andhra Pradesh is substantially more strategically and demographically stable than South Africa, in a way the requirement for striking balance of power through the multi-capital model doesn’t emerge in Andhra Pradesh. 

South Africa is spread around the region of 12,21,037 square kilometre with a coastline of 2,798 Kms limited toward the south with a population of over 5.5 crores. The population density of the nation stands at 43 per square kilometre. Andhra Pradesh is spread over 1,60,205 square kilometre after bifurcation with a coastline of 975 kilometres and a total population of 4.2 crores and a population density of 308 per square kilometre. This implies South Africa is 7.4 times larger than Andhra Pradesh and its coastline is 3 times that of Andhra Pradesh while the population density of Andhra Pradesh is 7 times more dense than South Africa. 

Emulating the South African model for Andhra only comes out as an ill-thought through rationale for a decision of this magnitude. The Jagan administration seems to define the difference between decentralization of development and governance.

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