So it is apparent Jaganmohan Reddy did not want GN Rao, the head of the committee that looked into whether Amaravati should continue as a capital, to steal the thunder. Which is why the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in the dying minutes of the winter session of the Assembly, lit up the House with his revelation about the three capitals – Visakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool.
Rao, who had served as District collector of Guntur, claimed the committee travelled over 10000 km, interacted with many stakeholders including farmers, to conclude that Visakhapatnam will be best suited to be the administrative capital of Andhra Pradesh. Amaravati that was to be Chandrababu Naidu’s dream capital, will be reduced to housing just the Assembly. Kurnool will be seat of the Andhra Pradesh High court.
But the three capitals is a misnomer, an attempt at making it appear as if all regional aspirations are being catered to. Technically, the capital is being shifted to Vizag because with the CM operating out of the Port city, it will be the real seat of power. Because though Amaravati is touted as the Legislative capital, the Rao committee has suggested that one of the three assembly sessions be held in Vizag. Again though the High court will be in Kurnool, in order to make it easier for people in north coastal and coastal regions, it is proposed that Vizag and Amaravati also have a bench each.
What does this entire proposal convey?
1. Jagan has killed Naidu’s Amaravati dream for good. By shooting off GN Rao’s shoulder, Jagan has sought to convey the impression that unlike Naidu who junked the Sivaramakrishnan committee report that had rejected Amaravati for environmental reasons, he listens to wiser counsel.
2. To anyone who has seen the fertile Krishna delta of Amaravati and felt aggrieved at Naidu’s decision to convert the multi-crop land into a concrete jungle, this is correcting a wrong. Vizag, being the biggest city in post-bifurcation Andhra Pradesh ought to have been the logical choice for a capital city. What Naidu did was a waste of time, obsessed with his desire to build a capital city and go into history books. Instead, Amaravati as People’s Capital is now history.
3. It also makes it difficult for Naidu to oppose this proposal politically. That is because Naidu as chief minister had rejected the request from Kurnool to house the High court. Jagan in contrast, comes across as a leader who respects people’s wishes. Similarly, north coastal Andhra – a region as neglected as Rayalaseema – will exult at Vizag becoming the new capital. If Naidu continues to obsess over Amaravati being downgraded, he will only be making another political mistake and lose support further. That is because Jagan has camouflaged this three capital plan as a way to decentralise administration.
4. The committee has recommended return of the land in 29 villages which was taken by the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) as part of an elaborate land pooling exercise. The farmers had given their land in hope of striking the proverbial pot of gold in a few years time. That dream has now gone sour with the committee arguing that setting up the capital in a flood prone area is not a good idea. The clock has been turned back on Amaravati region.
The only doubt is given the acrimony and bitterness Jagan and Naidu have for each other, what happens in case the TDP returns to power in 2024. Will the capital cities play musical chairs once again?