Now, trouble brews over capital for Seemandhra
Coastal Andhra and backward Rayalaseema regions fight it out with capital status seen as a gateway to prosperity
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Hyderabad: The fragile unity of Seemandhra will be put to test as the prosperous coastal Andhra and backward Rayalaseema regions fight it out to lay claim for the capital city—an outcome that could be a harbinger to the ties between the Telugu-speaking regions.
Different districts in the two regions are pitching for the state capital in the hope of garnering investments and infrastructure that, in turn, could spur growth and trigger a rise in real estate prices.
Seemandhra, a recently-coined term referring to Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra regions that are set to break away from Telangana, is slowly reconciling to the division that has seen the split of 84 million people.
People of the two regions see the capital city as a gateway to economic prosperity.
The Union government announced in the Rajya Sabha that it would inject Rs.5,000 crore in Seemandhra’s capital to build an assembly, secretariat, high court and offices to house other government paraphernalia. A committee appointed by the Union government will identify a new capital of Andhra state within 45 days of the state’s division.
Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada-Guntur, Kakinada, Rajahmundry, Ongole, Kurnool and Tirupathi towns are among the contenders for the new capital.
But the state capital issue, if not handled tactfully, could lead to deep resentment in the other region, more so Rayalaseema, the most backward of the three regions of Andhra Pradesh.
The justice B.N. Srikrishna committee that examined the Telangana statehood issue in depth identified water-starved Rayalaseema to be lagging behind coastal Andhra and Telangana on several socio-economic parameters.
The four districts of Rayalaseema—Chittoor, Kurnool, Anantapur and Kadapa—contributed just 16% to the state gross domestic product (GDP) during 2007-08, the Srikrishna Committee noted. The region received just Rs.732 crore in foreign direct investment (FDI) during 1991-2010, compared with Rs.6,490 crore in Telangana (including Hyderabad) and Rs.5,499 crore in coastal Andhra. FDI is an indicator of economic potential.
The fragile relationship between the two regions in Seemandhra stood exposed when some leaders from Rayalaseema lobbied with the Group of Ministers to append two of its districts—Anantapur and Kurnool—to Telangana on grounds of geographical continuity, access to Hyderabad’s infrastructure, and the possibility of sharing Krishna river water. Analysts say denial of the capital city to Rayalaseema could lead to another statehood demand on lines of Telangana.
Dividing the state without addressing the concerns of Rayalaseema could be a “festering sore that will again become a major issue in 2-3 years,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, president of the Lok Satta Party.
A political group demanding Rayalaseema statehood has already taken birth. The outfit, Rayalaseema Parirakshana Samiti (RPS), was started by a former Telugu Desam Party leader Byreddy Rajasekhara Reddy in 2013 to champion the Rayalaseema cause.
“If capital is also knocked away, why should we be with coastal Andhra people?” Rajasekhara Reddy, who is president of RPS, asked in a phone interview. To buttress his point, he pointed out that development in the region took a backseat as the region contains 52 assembly seats compared with 123 in coastal Andhra and 117 in Telangana. Junior rail minister Kotla Suryaprakash Reddy, too, warned of an agitation if Kurnool, the largest town in Rayalaseema, is not made capital.
Kurnool was capital of Andhra state before it merged with Telangana in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh with Hyderabad as the capital. A pre-independence pact, dating back to November 1937, identified Kurnool as a potential future capital to persuade Rayalaseema leaders to join hands with their coastal Andhra counterparts in demanding a Telugu state, according to K.C. Suri, a political science professor at the University of Hyderabad.
People from Rayalaseema argue that Kurnool was sacrificed for the sake of Hyderabad that has seen phenomenal growth over the last few years. Rayalaseema politicians said locating the Seemandhra capital in Rayalaseema could spur growth in the backward region. “When you set up capital in Rayalaseema, all the four districts will develop financially, economically and socially,” reasons Rajasekhara Reddy. “This is the only way out to develop Rayalaseema. If the capital is established here, the whole area will flourish.”
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