Andhra Pradesh’s wait for a capital is set to continue with the YSR Congress Party government approaching the Supreme Court against a High Court order asking it to go ahead with construction at Amaravati.
However, with a grand capital at Amaravati being the legacy of the N Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP government, Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy is not willing to concede an inch.
The YSRCP government is instead proposing three capitals for the state, claiming this would help “decentralisation” and hence “all-round development of the state”. As per its plan, there would be an administrative capital at Visakhapatnam, legislative capital at Amaravati, and a judicial capital at Kurnool. Visakhapatnam to Amaravati is about 400 km, while Kurnool is 700 km away.
Jagan recently said Visakhapatnam could be the “natural choice (for administrative capital)” as it is the biggest city in the state with ready-made infrastructure.
While opinion can be divided on the practicality of running a government from three places, the TDP’s argument is that 33,000 acres have already been acquired for the capital at Amaravati and some infrastructure built, and hence the state government should continue to develop it instead of shifting elsewhere.
Naidu has said that a High Court complex, a Legislature complex and high-rise buildings with accommodation for All India Service are among the constructions completed, along with laying of six-lane roads and a storm-water drainage system. “Why waste all that has already been established? The Amaravati area is equidistant from North Andhra and Rayalaseema, it is a good place for establishing the capital city,’’ he says.
TDP general secretary Nara Lokesh Naidu says the party will not relent on the issue and will continue to fight for Amaravati, including supporting farmers expecting high compensation for their land, who are protesting against the shifting of the capital.
Naidu had hired the Singapore government to prepare the master plan for the capital city. He also hired Foster+Partners to design the various government buildings, and retained Tollywood director S S Rajamouli as an advisor after watching the sets in the movie Baahubali.
For Jagan, the simple calculation is that if these Amaravati dreams are pushed through, the credit will go to Naidu and the TDP. While Naidu receives a lot of credit and is famous for developing Cyberabad and successfully convincing top IT companies to set up their offices there, Jagan wants to have his own legacy with decentralised development, especially with an exclusive judicial enclave in Kurnool.
The CM has said Amaravati is not feasible because the grand plan requires over Rs 1 lakh crore. “We can develop Vizag as the capital city because it already has all the infrastructure. We will need about Rs 10,000 crore for Vizag and to establish a judicial capital at Kurnool. The legislative capital will remain at Amaravati. We don’t have to invest Rs 1 lakh crore. That is like dream-chasing, we will never be able to do it,’’ he says.
He also asks why Naidu and the TDP were not able to develop the capital city during their time.
Jagan cites that his government has decentralised governance by setting up village and ward secretariats for better delivery of government services, and that doubling the number of districts to 26 by dividing and creating smaller districts is making it easy for district officials to manage.
On March 3, the Andhra Pradesh High Court ordered the state government to develop Amaravati as envisaged under the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) Act of the previous TDP government.
The High Court specified that the government should also develop the plots allocated to farmers in lieu of the agricultural land they gave up, and hand it back in three months. And that it must develop infrastructure facilities around the developed plots.
The court order said other plans too, such as the development of nine theme cities — knowledge city, health city, electronics city, tourism city, justice city, media city, sports city, finance city, and government city — at Amaravati as envisaged under the CRDA should be carried through.
On September 17, the YSRCP government approached the Supreme Court.