The contest between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, states in the process of building and rebuilding, has turned into one of one-upmanship between their chief ministers. From the seriousness of issues such as separate high courts and sharing of river waters, the competition between K Chandrasekhar Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu has crossed from humour to farce with each trying to outdo the other in terms of the capital cities they crave, the temple towns they want to rival each other with, and even the luxury buses they move in.
During the recent unruliness of Parliament, there was a gesture of momentary peace on August 5 when the Centre “welcomed” the Telangana government’s offer to give Andhra land for a separate high court in Hyderabad as a temporary measure. However, as with all other issues that keep them joined at the hip, Andhra and Telangana can’t wait to be separated.
Capitals & twins
On July 20, Singapore government agencies submitted a seed capital plan of Amravati, the proposed Andhra capital. Naidu, however, has his heart set now on parallel development of Vijayawada, around 12 km from Amravati. The idea is to have his own twin cities, much like Telangana’s Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
His plans for developing Vijayawada worry many, given that much is being spent already on Amaravati. Information & PR and IT Minister Dr P Raghunatha Reddy denies it is an ego boost. “Of course, Vijayawada needs massive development of civic infrastructure if it is to handle the pressure while the new capital is being built. Even otherwise, Vijayawada has to be developed because it is one of the biggest cities in Andhra. So why not make a twin to Amaravati?” he says. A plan to beautify Vijayawada is likely to cost more than Rs 1,500 crore while new civic infrastructure could cost over Rs 3,000 crore.
KCR too wants something Andhra has. He wants to develop the Lord Sree Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Yadagirigutta, now given its original name Yadadri, and make it grand enough to rival the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirumala.
The expansion and development at Yadagirigutta will cost Telangana between Rs 500 and Rs 600 crore.
“Development will take place in several phases. We will create facilities and amenities and construct shelters, hospitals and VIP cottages on the 19-acre slopes of the Yadadri hillock, on par with Tirumala-Tirupati. Around the sanctum sanctorum where about 14 acres is available, there will be research-based planned development to give visitors the best facilities,” says G Kishan Rao, CEO of the Yadagirigutta Temple Development Authority.
While the Tirumala temple is atop seven hills, Telangana will develop eight hillocks around the main Yadadri temple hillock, making it nine. Plans include wildlife parks, nature reserves, lakes with boat rides, as well as more temples.The point was made during President Pranab Mukherjee’s trip last month. After he had visited the Tirumala temple, KCR made sure the President visited Yadadri too.
The Yadadri temple wears a sparkling new look with fresh paint and a shed to provide shade to pilgrims in queue. On any given day, Tirumala has 50,000 to 70,000 visitors, which goes up to one lakh on festivals and weekends. Yadadri temple is looking at 20,000 to 30,000 pilgrims on special days.
The race led to an embarrassment of riches at the recent Godavari Pushkarulu. If Andhra lavished Rs 1,600 crore on the festivities, held mainly in Rajahmundry, Telangana spent more than Rs 1,000 crore on the festival in Dharmapuri and Bhadrachalam. “It was of course a matter of egos for both CMs and their states,” says Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, a veteran MP of the YSR Congress Party, who feels the competition is unhealthy for both states. “It is the biggest festival in both states and the Maha Pushkar was being held for the first time after the bifurcation. They both went all out to enhance their personal image, be it the publicity blitzkrieg or the massive arrangements. Whether it is planting of trees or reviving lakes and ponds, the CMs are trying to outdo each other.”
Another reconstruction plan on KCR’s table is of the secretariat building in Hyderabad. His officials say he prefers a campus where the chambers for ministers and the officers of their departments are on the same floor. The campus may also have quarters for secretaries and department heads.
“The idea is to streamline the functioning of government. At present, ministers, officers and department offices are spread all over the city. We want them all at one place,” an official says.
The existing secretariat was built by Telugu Desam doyen N T Rama Rao, who belonged to the Andhra Pradesh part of the undivided state. KCR has made it clear he does not want to rule from structures with an Andhra legacy.
He is said also to believe that the secretariat has bad vaastu. Throughout June and July, he visited his office in the secretariat only once or twice. He prefers to work from the office at his residence, where he met, for instance, Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry this month.
Another reason KCR may want to erase Andhra imprint is Naidu’s stature in his capital city. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi has been bristling at what it calls the Andhra CM’s “excessive interest” in Hyderabad and his efforts to strengthen the TDP in Telangana. TDP MLA A Revanth Reddy was caught allegedly trying to bribe nominated MLA Elvis Stephenson to get a TDP nominee elected to the Legislative Council. Tapes showed what was purported to be Naidu’s voice giving an assurance to Stephenson, though the Andhra CM maintains the tapes are doctored.
“If the TDP had managed to get its nominated candidate elected, it would have been a huge embarrassment for KCR. It was a victory for KCR and TRS, and a chastened Naidu is avoiding working from Hyderabad as far as possible,” an official says.
The TDP had since been demanding implementation of Section 8 of the AP Reorganisation Act 2014, arguing that Governor E S L Narasimhan, who controls both states, exercise his powers and keep law and order in Hyderabad under his control.
The Naidu government too asserted its right over Hyderabad, the joint capital for 10 years, by deploying its own police personnel to guard his residence for a couple of days, and demanding removal of the governor. KCR has supported the governor, often driving down to Raj Bhawan.
Another area of contention is sharing of Krishna waters from the Nagarjuna Sagar dam, one end of which is in Nalgonda of Telangana and the other in Guntur of Andhra. The Andhra government often accuses Telangana of not releasing its rightful share while the latter says Andhra always seeks more after having used up its share, allocated as per the Bachawat Tribunal Award.
The tribunal had allotted 811 thousand million cubic feet of Krishna water to undivided Andhra, with 299 TMC (41.61 per cent) of it to the Telangana region. After the new state came into existence in 2014, the 2014-15 monsoon resulted in a net flow around 550 TMC, of which Telangana got 229 TMC and Andhra 321 TMC.
KCR recently said Telangana will build irrigation projects on the Godavari, which flows through the state into Andhra.
This may reduce water flow to Andhra. Telangana Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao said existing projects on Godavari were designed only to benefit some districts of Andhra and deprive Telangana of water for irrigation.
While Andhra is yet to react to this, Naidu has opposed the Palamuru-Ranga Reddy lift irrigation project of Telangana proposed over the Krishna, saying it would deprive Andhra of its share. Andhra’s move to scuttle the project has been met with protests across Telangana. “Why should Andhra have a problem? Did they consult us when they started the Pattiseema project?” says Harish Rao, referring to an irrigation project that will channel Godavari water into the Krishna for use in the Krishna delta and part of Rayalaseema region in Andhra.
When long power cuts and erratic supply troubled the newly formed state, it accused Andhra of not releasing its rightful share from power projects in Andhra. KCR resolved to make Telangana power-surplus. While at present power is being bought from various sources including Chhattisgarh, the government has set out to build power projects with a total capacity of 25,000 MW in the next five years. This will not only make Telangana power self-reliant but also power-surplus in six years.
Incidentally, Andhra beat Telangana to this, becoming power-surplus early this year in May. Naidu offered to sell power to Telangana, but was snubbed. “When we were facing a crisis, Andhra refused us power. He delayed commissioning of a project there so that he does not have to share the power with us. But in the next four to six years, we won’t need to depend on any state for our power requirements,” Telangana Energy Minister Jagdish Reddy says.
Nothing illustrates the personal nature of their competition than the luxury buses each has acquired. Naidu already had a hired one with basic comforts; he spent nights in it while camping in Vizag after Cyclone Hudhud. Then KCR ordered one from Mercedes Benz with better facilities. Naidu ordered one for himself with similar facilities, including teleconferencing and WiFi, a place for meetings and a hydraulic lift to the roof. Each bus costs more than Rs 5 crore.