The Andhra Pradesh government’s decision to make Visakhapatnam the administrative capital and Kurnool the judicial capital, besides retaining Amaravati as the legislative capital of the state, has been stalled by the Opposition in the legislative council. Former CM N. Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP, who had dreams of making Amaravati a world-class capital, tells Outlook that the decision of his bête noir, CM Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party, is “vindictive, immature and destructive”. Jagan’s close aide and YSRCP leader Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, however, calls Naidu’s erstwhile plan to spend Rs 1 lakh crore on the capital a “ridiculous idea”. The Naidu government had acquired land from 28,000 farmers for the capital project, and they are protesting now. Reddy claims he has records to prove that 14,000 of the landholdings are benami and assures that the YSRCP government won’t let down the “genuine farmers”. Many TDP leaders and their followers purchased land in anticipation of Amaravati becoming the new capital. “The TDP has sponsored the ongoing protests, which are bound to fizzle out soon,” says Reddy.
There is also a fear that Amaravati could be hit by earthquakes due to its proximity to a seismic plate, but many experts dismiss it as alarmist. Seismologist R.K. Chadha, scientist emeritus at the National Geophysical Research Institute, says the entire Krishna delta spread across Guntur and Krishna districts is in a seismic zone, but possible quakes are expected to be less than 5 on the Richter scale and won’t cause much damage. “Development should never stop due to seismic activity,” he says. “Look at Delhi, where the Qutub Minar has stood tall for ages though the region is on a seismic plate.”
According to columnist G.B. Reddy, having three capitals is not a bad idea for ensuring equitable development across the entire state, whose longitudinal distance from the Odisha border to the Karnataka border is nearly 1,200 km—nearly twice that of Uttar Pradesh. “There are other states where the high court is not in the same city as the legislature and the secretariat. In UP, for instance, Lucknow is the capital, but the high court is in Allahabad. It’s the same in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh,” he says. “Andhra Pradesh may also consider the example of Maharashtra, where assembly sessions are held in both Mumbai and Nagpur. In this high-tech era, geographical separation of the legislature from the executive too need not necessarily upset the efficient functioning of government. It may not be necessary to move the secretariat staff to Amaravati from Vishakhapatnam.”
The controversy, though, is unlikely to end soon given the vicious YSRCP-TDP rivalry. As neither is in the mood for an amicable settlement, the fight is likely to play out for days in the assembly and outside.
By M.S. Shanker in Hyderabad