Naidu’s dichotomy: Modern mind, ancient heart

Sanjaya

Vijayawada:  Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Nara Chandrababu Naidu has been living in a utopian world and he has none to stop him from dreaming wide awake in the day. Ever since he took oath as chief minister of the residual State of Andhra Pradesh in the second week of June 2014, he has been behaving as though he lost his way. Some of the observers who are sympathetic to him have been arguing that there is a method in the madness. With the induction of film director Rajamouli into the never-ending designing of Amaravati, the so-called capital of the new State, even the sympathizers have become skeptics.

Naidu has been visiting country after country in search of a model for his dream city. He visited Singapore a number of times. China and Japan were the other destinations. Naidu told media that he was advised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to see one of the republics of the erstwhile Soviet Union. He visited that country too.  Singapore government was supposed to be a partner of AP government. But then, the Singapore government has suggested that some private companies should be asked to undertake construction of Amaravati for which the social media gave a sobriquet ‘Bhramaravati’, meaning an imaginary or mythical city, which is what it is so far without any concrete plan or shape. More than 30 months (half of the tenure) had gone by and the chief minister is still at the stage of experimentation.

In the meanwhile, he spent huge amounts of public money in the name of building a temporary Secretariat. He had spent some Rs 25 crores  on his office at the old Secretariat in Hyderabad for remodeling. The contract to build the temporary Secretariat at Amaravati was given to L&T, a renowned infrastructure giant in India. But Naidu expressed his displeasure at the way the buildings were constructed. He once remarked that Indian companies are capable of building only slums. It was an absurd observation by one of the senior most politicians in the country who had been the Chief Minister of undivided State of Andhra Pradesh for nine years from 1995 to 2004. But in the present term, he gives the impression that he is not the same politician known for his administrative skills and vision.

Main problems appear to be the absence of any power that can check his foolhardy schemes and unrealistic goals. Assembly is not allowed to function. There is not a single minister who can speak fearlessly. Even the ministers who came from BJP are not capable of understanding the situation and advising the CM. The bureaucrats lack courage to say anything against CM’s opinion. No one is prepared to stick his neck out.  So much so, whatever occurs to him becomes policy.

The Sivaramakrishnan Report which clearly said the new capital should not come up on the banks of Krishna as the land consists of loose soil which is not suitable for high-rise construction was discarded even without having a look at it. Even before the division of the State, Naidu had his own idea of the new capital and where it should be built and who should build it. None in the political spectrum had opposed the idea of the capital on the bank of Krishna though they have a lot of apprehensions. The only opposition party, YSRCP, did not oppose the idea for the fear of being misunderstood by the people of Krishna and Guntur districts since the leader of the party, YS Jaganmohan Reddy,  hails from Kadapa and his support base is mainly  in Rayalaseema.

The TDP and BJP could not go against the wish of the chief minister.  Prime Minister Modi is too busy visiting countries and addressing election rallies to know what is Naidu up to. He did not object to Naidu visiting foreign countries as long as the latter did not bother him with requests for funds or grants.  There is virtually no dissent expressed or heard. The only criticism by the opposition or some journalists is on the way the contracts have been awarded and land has been pooled or acquired.

So many designs were considered and thrown away. At last a renowned architectural firm, Foster and Partners, was asked to work on a design. Foster has designed iconic structures like the 50 UN Plaza, Singapore Supreme Court, Imperial War Museum in UK, Century Tower in Japan, the Ireo City at Gurugram in India, Cyber Port in China, Bloomberg headquarters in UK, The International Airport at Kuwait among other spectacular constructions.

The representatives of this firm were taken aback when Naidu insisted that they should first meet ace film director Rajamouli. According to an official of AP Capital Region Development Authority (CDRA), the representatives of the multi-national company visited Rajamouli last week in Hyderabad for a round of discussion. Municipal Administration Minister P Narayana, CRDA Commissioner C Sreedhar and others had a meeting with Rajamouli recently in Hyderabad.

The sought-after director is understood to have given them a lecture on the history of Telugu race and Dravidian architecture. He also spoke of the history and culture of Rayalaseema and coastal Andhra. Narayana said since the CM advised them to sit with Rajamouli, they went to him and had a detailed discussion.  If the State government decided to opt for Foster as the Master Architect for Amaravati, preparation of proper design and presentation might take about four months time. Prior to finalization, the price has to be negotiated.

Rajamouli has shot into international fame with his folklore-based film Bahubali: The Beginning. The sets build for the film were breath-taking and they impressed lakhs of people, including Naidu. A lot of digital graphics expertise, knowledge of history and folklore had gone into the planning of the sets. All of it was in the realm of imagination. It clean bowled Bollywood stalwarts like Aamir Khan who offered to act in a Rajamouli film. 

The famous film director is, however, realistic. He declined to associate with the new capital since he is not conversant with engineering or architecture.  But Naidu had insisted that he should sit with the designers of Foster group.  Why did Naidu involve a film director in what is essentially a job of an architect?  It has to do with his mindset.

He is a dreamer as is well known. He believes that if he can floor the people with the architectural marvel of Amaravati his second term in the new state is assured. Other lapses or non-implementation of poll promises would not influence the people who would be spellbound by the marvelous new capital. He has a modern mind and a heart that craves for ancient glory. This dichotomy has been at the back of his dillydallying on this project.

Naidu thought history has provided him with a golden opportunity to build a world class city on the banks of River Krishna and if he accomplishes the feat his name would be etched in history forever. With a single-minded pursuit, Naidu has been rejecting any suggestions contrary to his dream. There were many who suggested that the new capital should be built keeping administrative convenience in mind and high-rise buildings are not required. There were also pleas to decentralize the new capital by having High Court in some other town and other administrative offices scattered across  the State so that people of all regions would own the capital. Already there are signs of resentment brewing in Rayalaseema.  Voices critical of the CM for concentrating all his energies and funds only on Amaravati are steadily becoming louder.  But Naidu would not budge.

Rajamouli is now busy with the sequal, Bahubali: The Conclusion and he would be tied up with the film till April next year. He can spare time for CRDA only after the work on the film was completed. Which means a wait for some more months. Would there be anything at Amaravati to show to the people in 2019 elections? That is the question bothering the TDP leaders none of whom has the guts to give vent to his nagging doubts.

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