The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh is taking a very cautious approach on the issue of decentralization of the state’s capital, which the current YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) is likely to undertake. While the TDP is against the move, it has still not yet undertaken a major agitation on a statewide scale, as the party leadership is unable to decide on how to go about it, said a senior leader.
“We have started conducting protests on a large-scale in Amaravati itself to support the farmers who have up their lands for the development of the capital. It spans 29 villages, but beyond that region the opinion among people is really divided," said the TDP leader quoted above, who did not want to be identified.
He added that for many living outside the Amaravati area, which falls between Guntur and Vijayawada cities, the issue is not of much importance. “If we undertake a statewide agitation, it will become a political issue. We want the matter to also get full public support, like in the case of Telangana’s separate statehood wherein the people supported the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) wholeheartedly," the TDP leader added.
Last year in December, the state-government appointed Expert committee recommended that Visakhapatnam be made the executive capital, Kurnool in the Rayalaseema region the legal capital with the high court located there, and suggested Amaravati to house the governor’s office and the assembly and be the legislative capital.
It was followed by the state government setting-up a “high-power committee" to examine the recommendations of the G.N. Rao-led expert committee, after the state cabinet, led by the chief minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy deferred taking a decision to relocate the capital. The decision was deferred given that farmers in Amaravati have been up arms against the decentralization.
The recommendations, if implemented, will undo everything that Naidu had planned for Amaravati, which was to be developed as a global city.
Farmers in the Amaravati capital city region have been up in arms mainly because Naidu’s (previous AP) government had pooled in 33,000 acres of farm land from hundreds of them to develop Amaravati.
“It is the sheer negligence of the previous TDP government, led by N. Chandrababu Naidu, which concentrated overtly on Amaravati. Nowhere in the world has anyone put in 33,000 of farm lands to build a capital for about five crore people. This has become an instrument to intensify the rivalry between the two dominant castes in AP: Kammas and Reddys (to which Naidu and Jagan Reddy belong," said Prof E. Venkatesu, a faculty member from the University of Hyderabad’s political science department.
Noting that the issue of finding a new capital for AP is an old one (the state existed previously from 1953-56 when it separated from the Madras Presidency and had Kurnool as its capital, until it was merged with Telangana to created united AP state), he pointed out that the Siva Ramakrishnan committee, which was appointed before Andhra Pradesh’s bifurcation to look for a new capital had given some very important findings, which all political parties ignored.
“The committee at that time suggested to create multiple hubs of various sectors across AP. Another key element of its findings said that the capital shouldn’t exceed more than 1,000 acres of land," Prof Venkatesu added.