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Capital musings

Capital musings
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Capital musings, The declaration of Vijayawada vicinity as the new capital of residuary Andhra Pradesh is yet another major political move after the...

The declaration of Vijayawada vicinity as the new capital of residuary Andhra Pradesh is yet another major political move after the bifurcation. Chandrababu Naidu has demonstrated adroit political skills in steering through his idea on the location of the new capital. At the same time, he could successfully thwart the opposition game plan to embarrass the Telugu Desam government on this sensitive issue. But, Jaganmohan Reddy displayed a sense of confusion and lack of direction on the issue pregnant with political capital. Chandrababu Naidu government has virtually pushed the opposition YSR Congress to the wall. The TDP was successful in making the capital crisis politically a damp squib at least for now.

YSR Congress first pressed for a discussion on the floor of the house. The idea was that skeletons in the TDP cupboard would roll once the state legislature took up the debate on the capital. The opposition decided on this strategy against the backdrop of differences expressed by the ministerial colleagues of Naidu on the subject. Deputy Chief Minister K E Krishna Murthy, who is also the Revenue Minister, publicly questioned the choice of Vijayawada as capital. The absence of Revenue Minister in the Cabinet Committee on Land Acquisition for the capital was conspicuous. The land acquisition comes under the revenue ministry. None of the ministers from Rayalaseema region was ready to be part of this cabinet committee. The reason is any such move on their part would be perceived as tacit approval to the proposal of the government. This reflects the discontent in the Rayalaseema region over the denial of the capital for them. The people of this region often remind us the history. Kurnool was the capital of the Andhra state after it was carved out of the then Madras state. Jaganmohan Reddy initially wanted to capitalise on this discontent. The demand for discussion and even voting on the subject was in fact intended for this. But, he also knows that his party would also be a divided house once there was voting. But, still the leader of the opposition voiced such a demand as he was sure that the government would never agree to this. This is quite too similar to Chandrababu Naidu demanding a resolution in the state legislature in favour of Telangana. Naidu fell on a slippery wicket as the course of events unfolded.

Ultimately, Jaganmohan Reddy was forced to fall in line. He wholeheartedly welcomed the government’s decision to set up the capital in the surroundings of Vijayawada. Thus the Telugu Desam and its supremo could inflict a political retreat on Jaganmohan Reddy and his camp. The TDP correctly calculated that Jaganmohan Reddy would be certainly disinclined to present himself as the leader of any particular region of the state. The TDP also knows well that by opposing Vijayawada Reddy cannot afford to alienate mid-Coastal Andhra where he has already suffered a political damage.

Naidu’s skillful political management was at its best display. The government took no time in rejecting the Sivaramakrishnan Committee report which reportedly expressed its reservations over the choice of Vijayawada, citing the problems of land acquisition. The government also acted swiftly by finally announcing Vijayawada as the capital. Any delay would have made things complicated for the government as it would turn out to be a major emotive issue. The TDP seems to have learnt lessons from the experience of congress. The Congress paid a heavy price by allowing the sentiment to solidify on both sides by keeping the Telangana issue in cold storage for nearly a decade after it came to power only to resurrect it on the eve of elections. Chandrababu Naidu consistently hinted at Vijayawada right from the beginning. This also helped prepare the people of other regions on the eventuality. The sporadic protest over the government’s decision in Rayalaseema and elsewhere failed to galvanise as the opposition was not ready to lead it.

Meanwhile, Chandrababu Naidu could beautifully package the announcement with a string of proposals for every district. The YSR Congress Party could easily be flummoxed by this well-drafted script for the all-round development of the state. The YSR Congress should draw a long-term action plan to keep Chandrababu Naidu government on tenterhooks as it finds it extremely difficult to implement the plan of all things for all regions and all people. There are many missing links in this grand plan unveiled by Naidu. For instance, he promised adequate water for the industry to be set up in Rayalaseema region even as the people do not get drinking water there. He announced several airports without any economic growth to sustain the air traffic. However, he could stem the tide of discontent at least for the time being. But, a coherent development package for Rayalaseema and North Coastal Andhra would have been a cogent decision rather than a potpourri of proposals without any fiscal commitments to back them. The opposition overwhelmed by the grandeur nature of the announcement failed to present any alternate model.

But, all this is not to question the appropriateness of Vijayawada. The politically vibrant city would have been the capital of the then Andhra state. But, the leaders of different regions of the state ganged up to deny this city its due status as it was the citadel of the Communists. In fact, the political moorings that denied Vijayawada the capital status now benefitted it as the history repeats itself. Rumors are flying thick and fast in political circles that Vijayawada has been chosen as the ruling party is relatively strong there and the social groups that always supported TDP have disproportionately high economic stakes here. But, Vijayawada with its strategic location, connectivity, infrastructure, political vibrancy etc., did offer itself many qualifications. However, the land acquisition would be a herculean task in this agriculturally prosperous region.

Naidu promised a grand city as the capital. This promise is also a key factor that brought him to power. But, the Centre is no mood to extend any generous funding. The BJP leaders were publicly underplaying the claims of Naidu and other TDP leaders for a mega city capital. Naidu perhaps thought that completely a new city as capital may not be possible in the given situation. Whatever may be the political maneuvers, the government’s early decision to clear the air on the vexed question of capital augurs well for natal state.

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