Amaravati: The die is cast. Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan gave his consent for the bills on distributive capitals. Now, it is amply clear that the budding capital of the successor state of Andhra Pradesh in Amaravati is certain to lose its sheen. The ‘executive capital’ is all set to move over to Visakhapatnam.
Even a common man with a naivety in the state can understand the political motives behind the distributive capitals’ agenda of Jaganmohan Reddy given his steely approach to decimate his rivals and their iconic images from public view. And, the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill 2020 is just a sugar-coated pill invented by the YSR Congress regime to mollify the wounded souls.
For record, the government is claiming that Amaravati continues to be Legislative capital so as to escape from the possible legal hiccups. It is commonly known to everyone that the executive capital, combined with the Chief Minister’s Office and Secretariat, remains the seat of power. Obviously, it also remains a growth engine at a place wherever it is located. Although the government claims that the Legislative capital will remain at Amaravati, it will just remain for the namesake. The Assembly is scheduled to meet for 45 days in a year and the executive capital will host the sessions for the most part in Visakhapatnam. In that case, the Legislative capital will hardly host the sessions for not more than 20 days in a year.
A ghost city in making?
Thus, Amaravati with the Legislative Capital tag looks like a ghost city.
What is the political motive with which the government has thrown the baby out with the bathwater? Jaganmohan Reddy unveiled his agenda hardly a day after his swearing in on May 30, 2019 by pulling down a conference hall built next to his rival and former CM N. Chandrababu Naidu’s residence on the banks of the Krishna River at Undavalli. Reddy also reversed a slew of projects and schemes grounded during the previous TDP regime. It all serves as a clear pointer to the fact that Jagan is bent upon nullifying a project in Amaravati which Naidu tried to sell across the world as its brand ambassador in the past. Reddy also grew suspicious of TDP leaders and their business lobbies having heavily invested in the realty market in the capital region. The move to unbundle the executive capital from Amaravati will obviously strike at the financial roots of the TDP.
YSR Congress’ rebel MP K. Raghuramakrishna Raju said the distributive capitals proposal runs counter to the people’s mandate given to the YSR Congress in 2019 elections. Jagan Reddy never spoke of unbundling of the capital before the elections. He even built a house in Amaravati and made people believe that he would take forward the capital project in the present location, Raju reminded.
Caught in crossfire
The farmers who gave away their lands for the capital in Amaravati are unwittingly caught in the TDP-YSR Congress crossfire. The Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA), which was scrapped by the new government, entered an agreement with farmers, saying it is pooling up nearly 35,000 acres of farm lands for the capital on a “win-win” basis. Subsequently, the farmers voluntarily gave their fertile lands with the hope that the value of their lands after developed by the CRDA in line with the agreement will go up. The bubble is burst now with the governments three capitals proposal. The farmers are up in arms against the “breach of trust” committed by the Jaganmohan Reddy government by weakening the capital in Amaravati. Amaravati Metropolitan Development Authority, floated by the new government by scrapping the CRDA, promises to increase the period for payment of annual lease by five years and increase the social security pensions for farm workers to Rs 5,000 from Rs 2,500 for each family in order to pacify the agitating folks. “Pensions for the farm workers and the lease for farmers are linked up with the capital. Nothing can compensate the loss induced by the loss of the capital,” says CPI-M state secretariat member Ch. Babu Rao. The farm workers who lost employment in Amaravati after the pooling of farm lands for the capital in Amaravati were told that they would get alternative livelihoods when the capital is developed in its full form. Now, the very purpose is defeated.