Capital pains continue to plague Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad: Seven-and-a-half years after its contours were redrawn following the formation of Telangana state, the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh is still lost in search of its very own capital city. As the greenfield capital city of Amaravati wallows in the doldrums, the latest turn of events has only further muddied the waters.

Coming on the back of the Prime Minister’s announcement repealing the three farm laws, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s recent decision to repeal the three capital formula, had raised hopes that the capital Amaravati would regain its primacy as the lone capital of the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh.

But unlike the Prime Minister’s unequivocal announcement which diluted, to a large extent, the anti-farm laws agitation, the Jagan Reddy dispensation’s announcement did not put the lid on the more than 700-day long agitation for retaining Amaravati as the sole capital.

While repealing the Bills for trifurcation of the capital city, Jagan Reddy made it amply clear that an improved Bill would be subsequently introduced. The announcement has spurred Amaravati farmers who gave up their lands for the capital city project, to continue on the warpath.

Farmers are pushing on with their 45-day long ‘Capital to Temple’ Mahapadyatra to pressurise the state government on the issue. The ruling party has alleged that the farmers’ agitation is the handiwork of the opposition TDP. Both, the farmers as well as the TDP, have refuted these allegations.

Ever since 2014, when it got bifurcated and lost Hyderabad to the newly formed state of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh has been suffering an existential crisis of sorts. The city has emerged as one of the most dynamic cities in modern India, on the back of some pioneering branding and groundwork done by Telugu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu who has served as chief minister for both, undivided Andhra Pradesh as well as the residuary state.

Understandably, one of the first tasks that Chandrababu Naidu embarked upon after taking over the reins of the residuary state’s administration, was to set up a state capital that would apparently give Hyderabad a run for its money.

The capital city project was launched with much fanfare at Amaravati, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi attending the do. However, the project did not pick up pace due to several factors. The land acquisition proved to be a difficult proposition, with farmers unwilling to part with their fertile lands. Ultimately they were won over and the project continued to inch forward.

Unfortunately for Naidu, his party lost the 2019 assembly elections which brought the present chief minister and YSRC Party supremo YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to power with a thumping majority. One of the first major decisions that Reddy took after assuming power was to announce the trifurcation of the capital city. Amaravati would continue to house the legislature, while Visakhapatnam to the north, would be the center of the executive, and Kurnool to the south would be the judicial capital.

Predictably, the move raised the hackles of the opposition TDP and the Amaravati region farmers who had handed over 35,000 acres of fertile land. While some of the opposition parties did question the YSRCP government decision, the BJP remained ambivalent on the issue, letting the principal regional parties to slug it out.

The TDP which has been at the receiving end of the ruling party’s brute majority in the legislature and on the ground is finally seeing a ray of hope. For the first time in two and a half years, party leaders said, they are sniffing a chance at ousting the YSRCP.

The BJP jumped onto the bandwagon only recently, to be precise, a day before the state government’s dramatic announcement regarding repeal of the laws to trifurcate the capital city. The fledgeling Jana Sena Party headed by matinee star Pawan Kalyan has put its weight behind the agitating farmers.

With the stalemate on, agitating farmers continue to plod on, the opposition TDP is sharpening its knives, and the BJP is testing the waters.

With the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy dispensation reaching the halfway mark of its five-year tenure, and battle lines getting decidedly clearer on Amaravati, the issue could very well be the deciding factor in the 2024 assembly elections.

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