Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy looks to abandon Amaravati, plugging instead for decentralised development.

 

Tri-junction: CM Jagan Reddy (Photo: Vikram Sharma)

Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy appears determined to dash the development plans of his predecessor, N. Chandrababu Naidu. Reddy is preparing to disperse the state capital to three locations-Amaravati, Visakhapatnam and Kurnool.

In a report submitted to the chief minister on December 20, 2019, an expert committee headed by retired bureaucrat G. Nageswara Rao had recommended that the state administration be shifted to Visakhapatnam, while the state legislature remains in Amaravati and the high court shifts to Kurnool. Soon after, on January 3, the state government-appointed Boston Consulting Group (BCG) presented its report, which largely agreed with the Rao committee report, recommending decentralised development for the state. Highlighting the economic risk of developing a new capital-through an analysis of 30 greenfield capitals across the globe-the BCG report also noted that aside from Shenzhen and Navi Mumbai, all others had failed to achieve their development targets. As a next step, Chief Minister Reddy has tasked a 16-member committee headed by state finance minister Buggana Rajendranath to study the two reports and present the findings to the legislative assembly before the end of January.

However, ex-CM Naidu has rubbished the plan, calling the reports “waste paper for the Bhogi bonfire rituals ahead of Sankranti”. A lot is at stake for Naidu, who spent much political capital selling the idea of Amaravati as a dream city. Not everyone agreed with that vision, with many suspecting the new city would also serve as a mega real estate venture to benefit the Kamma caste, the dominant group in Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP). Extensive land purchases in and around Amaravati by the Kamma community and other TDP leaders have reinforced this impression and led to allegations of ‘insider trading’. While nothing has been proved, a cabinet sub-committee looking into the matter alleged large land purchases by elected representatives, people close to Naidu and by companies in which he owned shares in the period leading up to Amaravati being declared the capital in December 2014. Though Naidu has dismissed these as baseless, CM Reddy is likely to order a probe.

However, the TDP is not alone in its opposition. Investors in Amaravati are reportedly apprehensive of poorer-than-expected returns, and farmers who had consented to the land-pooling agreement by which Amaravati’s lands were acquired are restive. Even the BJP is against the plan: “The central government, farmers and bond-holders are also stakeholders [in this matter],” says state BJP president Kanna Lakshmi Narayana. “Farmers gave 33,000 acres [under the land-pooling agreement] and the Centre has spent Rs 2,500 crore for the development of Amaravati.”

But CM Reddy appears confident of his three-city plan. Arguing for decentralised development, he says, “We believe that [development] will be just only if water, funds and administration are equally available to all.” Source link