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It's curtains for Amaravati the capital
YS Jagan unlikely to go back on his decision; Dream city of TDP supremo Naidu may remain a dream forever
Politics is a strange and complex world. It is dynamic as well. If not, how can we explain the political developments over Amaravati Greenfield capital in Andhra Pradesh? As the first Chief Minister of divided Andhra Pradesh, TDP president Nara Chandrababu Naidu time and again claimed how he was trying to convert a crisis into an opportunity by developing a world-class Greenfield capital city for residual Andhra Pradesh.
He meant to say that Andhra Pradesh landed in financial troubles after the bifurcation as Hyderabad, the revenue-churning capital, went to Telangana and AP was left capital-less. He intended to correct this with his plans for dream capital.
So, Naidu drew up mega plans, convinced farmers in 29 villages to part with their lands and lined up iconic buildings there. These villages on the southern bank of River Krishna near Vijayawada formed key part of the proposed brand-new capital which he named as Amaravati.
But his dreams turned sour and world-class capital plans went awry after his party lost the 2019 Assembly elections by a mile to his archrival YS Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP. As if that's not enough, YSRCP won Mangalagiri and Tadikonda Assembly seats, under which the core Amaravati capital area falls.
Furthermore, Naidu's son Lokesh suffered a humiliating defeat in Mangalagiri even though the TDP supremo promised a dream capital in Amaravati, which if it became reality would have benefited all the people living in the area.
But the real political twist began after the last year's elections with YSRCP chief throwing mega Amaravati plans into Krishna river and deciding to develop three capitals instead. Under this plan, Assembly will be retained in Amaravati, which will be legislative capital while Kurnool will be home to judicial capital with AP High Court. And Visakhapatnam, the coastal city, will be the executive capital where Secretariat, the seat of power, will be set up.
That means YSRCP chief and Chief Minister YS Jagan is gifting capital to Visakhapatnam which defeated his mother in 2014. In that elections, the young leader sprang a surprise by fielding his mother, YS Vijayamma, from Visakhapatnam Parliamentary seat.
She lost to BJP's Kambhampati Hari Babu. It was said that a fear psychosis was created among voters there that people from faction-ridden Kadapa, the strong hold of Jagan's father Dr YS Rajashekara Reddy's family, would descend on the city and cause problems to locals if they voted for her.
This feeling played a key role in the defeat of YS Vijayamma at that time. Incidentally, she was the first person from YSR's family to lose an election. However, it is to be seen how people of Visakhapatnam will now react to the fact that as Chief Minister, YS Jagan will have to stay put in the coastal city day in and day out!
However, the crux of the matter is that YSRCP which won both the Assembly seats in Amaravati is shifting the capital from there while TDP which lost elections miserably in the area is fighting for retaining the Greenfield city as the single capital.
That's a political irony indeed.
But whatever may be the political developments and their repercussions, it's certain that it's curtains on Amaravati. Frankly speaking, this Greenfield capital has been designed as a real estate project. There should not be any second opinion about it. Land cost was Rs 10 lakh per acre in the 29 villages before the capital's location was finalised.
The price shot up beyond Rs one crore per acre after the announcement. The idea of the previous government was to pool in land, develop infrastructure, create social infrastructure and attract private investments and companies. It wanted to monetise the land bank after price appreciation and use the proceeds for the development of the capital city.
That means private investments hold key for the success of the Amaravati project. With farmers taking to the streets in favour of Amaravati and the AP government taking a firm decision against the Greenfield capital, the issue of Amaravati has gone too far. Land prices also crashed now.
Therefore, it's not easy to revive positive image among prospective investors and put the Amaravati capital plans on growth track. Furthermore, YS Jagan is known for sticking to his decisions come what may. If somebody thinks that he will go back on his decision, it's nothing short of foolishness.
Of course, AP Legislative Council in which TDP has a majority succeeded in delaying the process. But it can't create hurdles forever. If push comes to shove, the YSRCP government will not hesitate to shut down the Council and then get the capital-shifting plans going.
Besides, legislative capital will not make much difference to Amaravati. AP Assembly functions hardly for a couple of months in a year. Its role in governance is minimal and restricted to formulating policies.
Moreover, Chief Minister YS Jagan indicated in his speech during the discussion on the Bill to create three capitals in Assembly that Amaravati will witness a natural growth as a city. That means it is unlikely that the AP government would put Amaravati region on a fast-track development.
However, people in Amaravati area seem to be pinning hopes on the judiciary. So are also political parties and organisations which are fighting against the shifting of the capital from Amaravati. This columnist has an inkling of this during a recent visit to Amaravati.
But courts may not throw spanners in the YSRCP government's plans because building Amaravati capital city is a capital-intensive exercise. When the government throws up its hands and says it doesn't have funds to build the capital, courts can't do anything. It's same with the central government which is also not in a position to provide financial assistance to the capital.
At the most, courts may ask the government to see to it that farmers who sacrificed their lands for Amaravati don't suffer and are adequately compensated. In all probability, Amaravati will never reach the grandiose scale as envisaged by the Naidu government. The Greenfield capital has hit a dead end. No one will dare to make any investments there. The dream city of TDP supremo Naidu will remain a dream forever.
But we never know. Andhra Pradesh is a complex society dominated by caste politics, regional aspirations and what not. In the State, there are several groups, some contradictory and competing in nature, which have the capacity to pull the right strings at the right places at the right time.
Each of these groups has influence beyond Andhra Pradesh and in all pillars of the India's fabled democracy. As happened in Visakhapatnam in 2014, there may be a surprise or a shocking development that can change the course of events in Andhra Pradesh. Also, there are also ample chances that someone may make use of his sphere of influence to do that.
But the fact is that uncertainty over AP capital issue should end fast and at the earliest possible. Otherwise, Andhra Pradesh and its innocent people will pay a heavy price.
That's for sure. In politics post the elections, people and their interests take back seat and political maneuverings take the centre stage. It's no different in Andhra Pradesh. That's what is happening now. Isn't it sad, folks?
Last word: Every individual who takes birth on this earth dies one day. That's certain. There is no uncertainty about it. But goals, politics and emotions make our lives livelier and worth living.
Politics is part and parcel of our lives and there is no way we can escape from it. So, it's better to steer ourselves out of all political maneuverings dexterously and enjoy the nicer things in life.