A new twist to Andhra Pradesh’s capital saga

YSRCP leader Y.V. Subba Reddy. — IANS

Mohammed Shafeeq

Amaravati, Feb 19(IANS) With its three state capitals plan not taking off even after four years, Andhra Pradesh’s ruling party YSRCP has added a new twist to the capital saga a few weeks ahead of polls.

YSRCP leader Y.V. Subba Reddy’s statement that Hyderabad should continue as the joint capital of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana until Andhra Pradesh had a capital of its own came a few weeks ahead of the simultaneous elections to the Assembly and Lok Sabha.

Subba Reddy, the uncle of Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, is a senior leader of the party. Political observers feel that he may not have said something on his own. The statement is being seen as an attempt to change the course of the debate as the opposition TDP-Jana Sena combine have launched a scathing attack on the Jagan government for keeping the state without a capital.

Under Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, Hyderabad was to be the joint capital of the two Telugu states for 10 years, from June 2, 2014 till June 2, 2024, after which it would be the capital of Telangana alone.

Hyderabad is located inside its territory of Telangana but the then Congress-led UPA government agreed to make it a joint capital of both the states to pacify those in the residuary state who were agitated over losing the city which was the capital of the combined state since 1956. The 10-year period was also aimed at giving Andhra Pradesh an opportunity to build its own capital. After many twists and turns, the residuary state remains without a capital city.

In 2016, eight years before the deadline, then Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.Chandrababu Naidu had shifted the seat of governance to Amaravati, where the foundation stone for the new capital was laid on October 6, 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Naidu had grand plans of developing Amaravati as a world-class city and had successfully convinced farmers in 29 villages of the region to give their lands under land pooling. The TDP government had also undertaken the works on some components of the mega project.

However, the defeat of TDP in the 2019 elections changed everything. Jagan, who as the leader of opposition had backed Amaravati as the state capital, dumped it a few months after coming to power.

On December 17, 2019, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced in the state Assembly that his government will develop three state capitals to ensure decentralised development.

The YSRCP government mooted Visakhapatnam as administrative capital, Kurnool as judicial capital and Amaravati as legislative capital.

Farmers of Amaravati, who had given 33,000 acres of land for the capital, were up in arms. They, along with leaders of different political parties and people’s organisations, knocked on the doors of the court.

Even after four years the issue of three capitals is in legal tangle and the Jagan could not even shift his office to Visakhapatnam despite repeated announcements.

With elections drawing closer, Chandrababu Naidu has stepped up attacks on Jagan for ‘killing’ capital city Amaravati and also failing to deliver on three capitals.

Subba Reddy’s statement is an apparent attempt by YSRCP to divert the attention from this by triggering a new debate.

However, there are not many takers within YSRCP for extending Hyderabad’s status as joint capital beyond June 2, 2024.

Education Minister Botsa Satyanarayana differed with Subba Reddy’s views. He believes that it is not possible for Hyderabad to continue as the joint capital.

The opposition parties have also come down heavily on YSRCP. TDP national president Chandrababu Naidu taunted Jagan, saying he now wants Hyderabad as the fourth capital. “Speaking in Assembly, Jagan supported Amaravati as the capital. He backtracked and said three capitals will be developed. Now he is saying Hyderabad will be the fourth capital,” the former chief minister said.

TDP’s Andhra Pradesh unit president K. Atchen Naidu claimed that YSRCP leaders want to retain Hyderabad as joint capital due to the illegal assets they owned in the city. “YSRCP leaders have illegal assets and properties in Hyderabad and they want to protect the same by retaining the city as the joint capital,” he said.

Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Y.S. Sharmila has been slamming the government headed by her brother Jagan for not developing a proper state capital even after five years. On Hyderabad as a common capital issue, she alleged that it is the YSRCP’s trick to hide its failures and confuse people as it knows that defeat in elections is certain.

The Andhra Pradesh High Court on December 23, 2023 granted a stay on the government’s plan to shift the chief minister’s camp office and that of all his cabinet colleagues to Visakhapatnam on the pretext of reviewing the developmental programmes in north coastal Andhra region. The stay was granted on a batch of petitions filed by Amaravati farmers. The Jagan government was hoping to shift some key offices to Visakhapatnam before elections to send across the message that it is on course to develop three capitals.

The larger issue of three capitals is also not likely to come up for hearing in the Supreme Court before April.

On March 3, 2022, Andhra Pradesh High Court had directed the state government to develop Amaravati as the state capital in six months. A bench of three judges had pronounced the judgment on 75 petitions filed by Amaravati farmers and others challenging the government’s move on three capitals.

Later, the Supreme Court while hearing the Special Leave Petition (SLP) filed by the state government, gave a stay on the High Court’s directions to develop infrastructure in Amaravati within a stipulated time-frame.

The apex court, however, did not stay the other part of the judgement, which declared Amaravati as the state capital and the law on three capitals was not valid.

Last month, a division bench of the Supreme Court refused to entertain a plea to take up an urgent hearing on SLP.

The bench said it would take a decision only after hearing the arguments of both the sides comprehensively in April.

- Advertisement -