Between 2009 and 2013, Chandrababu Naidu committed a blunder on Telangana. He refused to take a categorical stand, whether he was for it or against it. Not that it was easy for the Telugu Desam chief because supporting bifurcation would have robbed him of support base in Andhra Pradesh. On the other hand, if he openly said he was against the creation of Telangana, it would kill his party in Telangana.
Being wishy washy with his two eyes theory (“Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are like my two eyes”) did not help matters either. While Naidu managed to come to power in Andhra Pradesh with the help of the BJP and Jana Sena in 2014, his TDP was washed away in Telangana. The party is with one foot in the grave in Telangana now.
Cut to 2020 and a Telangana-like either / or question stared once again at Naidu with Amaravati. And this time, unlike his earlier ambivalence on Telangana, Naidu decided to bite the bullet. He took a pro-Amaravati position and understandably so. After all, he was the architect of the dream called Amaravati, the city he called People’s Capital, that he envisaged would be the world’s best capital by 2030.
By doing so, he has taken a huge risk. The YSRCP is going to town in both north coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema, pushing the narrative that Naidu is against development in this region, blocking goodies given to these two regions. It will become difficult for Naidu also to defend his Amaravati position in both Vizag, that is the driver for the north-coastal region and Kurnool, a city that has been asking for the High court since the time Naidu was CM.
What Naidu is missing out is real feedback from real people on the ground. Even when he was CM, there was huge resentment over his obsession with Amaravati. That was one of the many reasons that cost him the election in 2019. Now by making the fight for Amaravati a fight for Andhra Pradesh, Naidu may be missing the wood for the trees.
What Jagan has done is a political masterstroke. He has pushed Naidu into being a leader of Krishna and Guntur, the two districts that would gain by Amaravati being the sole capital. But not all TDP leaders in Rayalaseema and north coastal Andhra are gung-ho about Amaravati, affecting Naidu’s own party support base.
But while Jagan will gain politically, it also raises a question mark over the kind of governance we are seeing in Andhra Pradesh, where the password is `revenge’. What Jagan has done is to disrespect the sanctity of a government decision. The farmers in 29 villages had given their land to the AP Capital Region Development Authority, created by the Andhra Pradesh government. They did not give the land to the TDP. This vengeance politics of overturning every decision taken by the previous government and not honouring previous financial commitments has to stop.
Under pressure and with an eye to deflate the TDP-led Amaravati agitation, the YSRCP government has offered additional sops to the Amaravati farmers. It has put more money on the table with the hope that it will nudge them to come to terms with the new reality.
But hypothetically speaking, what happens if Naidu returns to power in 2024. Will the executive capital move back to Amaravati?