While the bill is still stuck in the legislative council, the state government was initially planning to shift the state's secretariat to Visakhapatnam, which now may not happen due to the unforeseen circumstances created by covid-19
Hyderabad: The coronavirus pandemic may create a roadblock in the YSR Congress party's plan to decentralize Andhra Pradesh's capital. While the bill is still stuck in the legislative council, the state government was initially planning to shift the state's secretariat to Visakhapatnam, which now may not happen due to the unforeseen circumstances created by covid-19.
Earlier this year, before the nationwide lockdown was imposed, the state’s legislative assembly had passed the Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill 2020 and the the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Bill 2020, which deal with decentralising AP’s capital among Amaravati, Visakhapatnam and Kurnool. Once it is passed in the legislative council, the move can be officially commenced.
The main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has over 25 members in the 58-member upper house, which did not pass the bills, and instead the TDP sent those to a select committee. However, the council has to accept the bill once it is sent there again after being passed the assembly for a second time. Moreover, in January, the YSR Congress, led by chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, passed a resolution to scrap the council itself.
While that itself may take time, the state government would have by now begun the process of shifting the executive capital to Visakhapatnam, said an AP government official, who did not want to be named. Moreover, with schools set to open from 3 August in the state, the government will have to start the process by mid-July at least, otherwise government employees may not agree to it.
“As of now, the issue of shifting has not even come up for discussion due to the pandemic, but if at all it has to be done, state government employees have to also agree," added the official. So far, the AP government has not said anything about the issue of decentralisation, busy as it is in tackling the covid-19 outbreak. On Sunday, another 66 people tested positive for the virus, taking the state’s total number of cases to 2,627.
A senior leader from the main opposition TDP, who did not want to be named, pointed out that even if some normalcy resumes, it would take at least a few months before the two bills are passed in the council. “For the council to be scrapped, the Centre has to be involved, since it requires confirmation from parliament," he added.
After the YSR Congress announced its decentralisation plans, the TDP and farmer organisations went on protest in the Amaravati capital region earlier this year. Many farmers had given up their land in the area for the development of Amaravati, which was to be a global capital as envisaged by TDP supremo and former AP chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu.
Last year in December, the AP government appointed an expert committee which recommended that Visakhapatnam be made the executive capital and Kurnool in the Rayalaseema region the legal capital with the high court located there. It suggested that Amaravati could house the governor’s office and the assembly, becoming the legislative capital of the state.