From the World Bank withdrawing its funding to the start-up area project being terminated, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has majorly undone his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu’s pet project of building the Amaravati capital city, ever since the former came to power in May this year.
With the state government also reviewing the upcoming capital’s progress (through an expert committee), its latest decisions and actions have only raised more questions about Amaravati’s future.
The newest development on this front is the AP government cancelling the land allotted to United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Lulu group, which had decided to invest Rs2,300 crore in AP by building an international convention centre, shopping mall and a five-star hotel. Naidu, who also heads the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), took to Twitter on Thursday and lashed out against Jagan.
“It took a lot of pitching & incessant follow-up to convince Lulu Group to invest in AP. The seed of growth was sowed. Had it taken shape, Vizag would have gained thousands of jobs that in turn would have boosted the local economy. Alas, it wasn’t to be!" tweeted Naidu, who also termed Jagan’s decision on the issue as “foolish". ÄP industries minister Makapati Goutham Reddy, however, defended the government’s move, stating that the Lulu group’s project was against environmental norms, among other things.
Prior to this, the Startup area project, that was planned in Amaravati by Naidu was terminated by the AP government. The Singapore consortium that partnered the government for the project pulled out of it. The startup area project was to be undertaken by the Singapore Amaravati Investment Holdings (SAIH), which had last year formalized its collaboration with the AP government to jointly master-develop the startup area with the Amaravati Development Corp. (ADC), a state government agency.
SAIH, a joint venture company that is wholly-owned by Ascendas-Singbridge Andhra Investment Holdings and Sembcorp Development India, and ADC were to develop the startup area, which lies within a 1,700 acre core area of Amaravati, along the Krishna riverfront. It was largely Naidu’s idea. That development was preceded by the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank withdrawing their $500 million funding in July (based on a request from the Centre for the same).
“Obviously Jagan is trying to undo everything that Naidu did during the previous TDP government. However, he is taking a big gamble with Amaravati, in terms of the changes that have taken place. He knows that Naidu’s name will be associated with it as it was the latter’s project," said a senior TDP leader, who did not want to be quoted.
When contacted, AP Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) commissioner Lakshmi Narasimham, in an email response on 15 November said that the APCRDA has not sought any funds from other sources. He added that an expert committee is currently reviewing the developmental plans initiated so far and that it will suggest a “comprehensive development strategy for all round development of the entire state including Capital."
Moreover, the expert committee is also reviewing plans of the assembly and state secretariat buildings in Amaravati. Designs of the two structures were a point of much talk during Naidu’s tenure as chief minister (2014-19) previously, as those were specifically chosen by him.
“There has been a relay hunger strike in the Rayalaseema area (comprising Kurnool, Anantapur, Chittoor and Cuddapah districts) from the last 15 days to shift the High Court there. When you look at things retrospectively, during the election itself the YSRCP had told people in the Rayalaseema region about reviewing Amaravati. Hence, the plan that was devised by Naidu originally will be drastically changed," said Prof. E. Venkatesu, a faculty member from University of Hyderabad’s political science department.
He pointed out that during AP’s bifurcation (from Telangana in 2014), there were anti-division sentiments as capital was concentrated in Hyderabad. “So Jagan will look to decentralize," Prof. Venkatesu mentioned.