Jaganmohan Reddy won office in May by defeating Chandrababu Naidu. His YSR Congress swept Andhra Pradesh, winning nearly 50 per cent of the votes and 151 of 175 assembly seats; Naidu’s Telugu Desam was reduced to a rump in the House. But six months into his tenure, Reddy, one of the youngest CMs in the country at 47, threatens to be a major disappointment. The latest in a series of actions, undertaken, ostensibly, to undo Naidu’s legacy in the state, is the move to terminate the Andhra Capital Region Development Authority’s (CRDA) agreement with a Singapore consortium to develop a 6.84-km greenfield start-up area in Amaravati, the designated capital of Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation in 2014. The start-up area was to have a host of facilities, including pay-and-plug offices and generate nearly 50,000 jobs on completion.
The decision to cancel the project must be read in the backdrop of the Reddy government maintaining that it doesn’t intend to develop Amaravati as a world-class city, as Naidu had wanted. Clearly, Reddy is haunted by the spectre of Naidu’s legacy looming over Amaravati. It is not as if Reddy has an alternate plan for the new capital. His vision, unfortunately, seems to be blinded by his obsession with all that Naidu built or proposed. So, bureaucrats have to drive out to meet Reddy in his camp office outside Amaravati, instead of the latter receiving them in the CM’s chamber in the secretariat, built during Naidu’s tenure. Elsewhere in Amaravati, work has stalled on many infrastructure projects. Funding agencies, including the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, have backed off. With dismal signals being sent out by the government, the city is unlikely to attract any fresh investment, which the state desperately needs. Amaravati needs to be built not merely as a legacy project, but also to ensure that neighbouring Vijayawada is not forced to shoulder the burden of an under-developed state capital. Moving beyond Amaravati, Reddy’s initiatives, such as village secretariats, a parallel bureaucracy of 1.26 lakh new recruits, and the push for re-tendering old projects, are likely to result in cost overruns and bleed the state economy.
The government’s lack of a governance plan is compounded by its hostile approach to critics. Government departments have been told to sue the media in the event of reports that officials perceive as defamatory. Reddy needs to realise that governance calls for a more generous vision of both the past and the future.