Andhra Pradesh competes yet another year without any designated capital while it enters into the seventh year after its formation. With Jagan Mohan Reddy Government coming down hard on Amaravati, High Court stalling the Government’s proposal to partially move to Kurnool and Vizag entwined in gas leak, corona crisis and investment losses, the waiting saga of people of AP for their capital continues.
The former chief minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu undertook to build a dream capital for the State in Amaravati. The Greenfield city on the banks of Krishna was planned from scratch to match with the contemporary cosmopolitan standards elsewhere in the world. Mr. Naidu came up with the ingenious land pooling schemes to collect 33000 acres of waste lands to build the city.
However, Amaravati is mired into caste politics from the very beginning. Though as an opposition leader Jagan Mohan Reddy has formally consented for formation of Amaravati as the State capital, YSRCP and its leaders have continued accusing the project of benefitting only one caste group, the Kammas of the Krishna-Godavari belt. The then opposition party has continued to find faults with Amaravati.
After coming to power, Jagan Mohan Reddy made no delay in derailing the project. Six months into his rule, he passed the bill to establish three capitals for the State. Riding on the slogans of decentralizing the administration and development in the State, the Chief Minister has pitched to establish a judicial capital at Kurnool in Rayalaseema and an administrative capital at Visakhapatnam in Uttarandhra, while the legislative capital would continue to be at Amaravati.
While Jagan Mohan Reddy and leaders of the ruling party get busy with the anniversary celebrations on completion of one year rule in the State, the capital question continues to stare in the face of the Chief Minister and his aides. on the other hand, the capital farmers took to the stage on the eve of 150 days of their continued protests for saving Amaravati.
Being in opposition the YSRCP has criticised the then ruling party for the snail’s pace of work in Amaravati, the ground reality has only become worse after the World Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the Singapore consortium have withdrawn from the project. The heavy constructions undertaken by the previous Government are stalled and material on roads have been stolen. Amaravati remains to be a sight of continued protests and police interventions.
On the other hand, the Government’s order on shifting public offices to Kurnool as part of the three capital model hit another major roadblock the high court on March 20, 2020 issued stay orders on the proposed shifting of the office of the Vigilance Commissioner and Chairman of Commissionerate of Inquires and Offices of the members of the Commissioner of Enquiries to Kurnool. The High Court in a petition on the capital move said it would hold the Government and the officials concerned responsible if any offices were relocated to the proposed new capitals. The court also asked the State Government not to shift any of its offices to any other place.
Visakhapatnam, a city that has enough development to show the way forward for the State, as said by the Chief Minister himself, has suffered multiple injuries ever since the capital decision was made. While political critics have appreciated Jagan Mohan Reddy for the tactical move in choosing the only developed city in State to be his administrative capital and bringing the much needed attention to the traditionally backward coastal region of northern Andhra, the plans have not gone so well after the COVID-19 crisis has hit the State. As the State and the city continued to suffer from the corona scare, the gas leak at LG polymers was an unanticipated political crisis for the young CM.
The political observers have been critical of the choice of port city for capital for its past history of storms and cyclones, also the susceptibility to security threats. In the last five years, the region has witnessed one major storm Hudhud and two major cyclones Titli and Pethai. Hudhud has left the city of Visakhapatnam devastated before it was rebuilt, efforts for which the former chief minister Naidu were lauded by one and all. With the advent of monsoon, Visakhapatnam continues to stare at plausible environmental hardship.
Admit it or not, the de-facto capital of Amaravati continues to serve Jagan Mohan Reddy as the only functional capital. Much to his disliking and continuous efforts to move away from the Amaravati, a capital chosen and set up by his arch rival Naidu also served as the house of jubilation for Jagan Mohan Reddy and his party on the eve of their first anniversary.