It’s Vijayawada after all!

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Hyderabad, September 4: The dilemma over the capital city of Andhra Pradesh is over. AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has announced the cabinet decision to build the new capital for the new State around the historic city of Vijayawada. Naidu has also appointed a Cabinet Sub-Committee to recommend the rules and regulations to acquire land for building new capital.

The Opposition YSRCP had initially insisted on debate before the announcement of the decision but gave in later out of fear that their attitude may be misunderstood by the people in Vijayawad-Guntur region. YSRCP chief YS Jaganmohan Reddy made it clear that their objection was only to the procedure adopted by the Speaker Kodela Sivaprasad. He said there is no point in debating a decision which has already been announced. However, he told the House that his party has no objection to the decision of the government to have the new capital built between Vijayawada and Guntur cities. He finally welcomed the decision to have the new capital in Vijayawada. The new capital is likely to be named as NTR Nagar.

There was a war of words between YS Jagan and Kodela on one hand and Jagan and Naidu on the other about precedents to take up discussion before announcement of the decision. Speaker told bluntly that the Opposition cannot dictate procedure to the House. Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu, who was Speaker of undivided AP Assembly, taunted the Opposition leader by reminding that there is democracy in the House but there is no Jaganocracy. He also jibed at the young leader that the House is not Lotus Pond (Jagan’s residence) or Idupulapaya (where YS Rajasekhara Reddy’s samadhi lies).

A historic wrong has been righted by opting for Vijayawada as the place for the capital. Even in 1953 when Andhra State was formed after splitting the then Madras State, Vijayawada was sought to be made the capital of the State. But the dominant leaders of Rayalaseema in the Congress brought about pressure on the government to opt for Kurnool with an eye on Hyderabad. Jawarlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, left to the State Assembly to decide the new capital. There was, in fact, a debate for five days, as YS Jagan pointed out, before finalizing Kurnool as the capital. C Rajagopala Chari, the then Chief Minister of Madras, was reported to have told the Andhra leaders that the city of Hyderabad would be the future capital after the merger of Andhra and Hyderabad States and Kurnool could be a temporary capital. That was the reason why the State government of Andhra did not build any permanent structures at Kurnool and offices were housed in temporary accommodation. As envisaged by Andhra leaders, the merger of Andhra and Hyderabad States took place in 1956 and Hyderabad became the capital of Andhra Pradesh.

In the wake of bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014, Hyderabad remained as capital of Telangana State and the residuary State of AP had to go for a new capital. The Sivaramakrishnan Committee, appointed by the Centre to recommend the suitable place to build a capital, was against Vijayawada-Guntur region to be site of the capital. It came out with District and Capital Zone Suitability Index (DCZSI) for capital zones. Krishna district was rated the best performer in regional development index followed by Visakhaptnam, Guntur, East Godavari, West Godavari and Anantapur. Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri region was classified as risky from seismic activity. But on connectivity index, the best performer is again Krishan district followed by Guntur. Ultimately, the Committee opined that three clusters-Krishna and Guntur, Visakhapatnam and East Godavari and Nellore- emerged as highly suitable. The Committee felt that there would a lot of pressure on the infrastructure and availability of land also would be a problem if Vijayawada were selected new capital city.

Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, however, has been suggesting right from the beginning that he preferred Vijayawada-Guntur region. He organized his swearing-in ceremony also at Kaza near Nagarjuna University between Vijayawada and Guntur. It is obvious that there is a lot of pressure on the Sivaramakrishnan Committee as a result of which it had to modify its first report and follow the path shown by Justice Srikrishna Committee which came up with six alternative formulations to resolve the question of Telangana statehood. With the announcement of the decision by Naidu on Thursday, the question has been settled once for all. Now all eyes would be focused on Vijayawada-Guntur region.

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