Why Jagan can't dump Amaravati as capital?

Why Jagan can't dump Amaravati as capital?
YS Jagan Mohan Reddy

Hyderabad: The fact that the development of Amaravati, the capital city of Andhra Pradesh, would not be Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy's priority was clear from the day he assumed office as the state's new Chief Minister in May.

He called the land acquisition for developing the capital city a big scam and said his government would order a thorough probe.

The young leader claimed that his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) resorted to insider trading as they were privy to the information where the new capital was going to be located and purchased prime lands at throwaway prices.

The allegations were not new as Jagan Reddy had been targeting the TDP government when he was the leader of the opposition for the 'land scam'. He also ridiculed Naidu for creating hype with no work on the ground.

After the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) stormed to power with a massive mandate, the ongoing works in Amaravati came to a halt. Jagan Reddy's remarks sent panic among farmers, who were expecting good returns in the form of property development for 33,000 acres of land they gave for the capital city.

The change of guards also led to real estate prices in Amaravati crashing down. Last month, the World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also pulled out of a project to fund Amaravati's development. They together had committed $500 million for the Amaravati Sustainable Infrastructure and Institutional Development Project.

This triggered a blame game between the ruling and the opposition parties. Jagan Reddy said corruption by the TDP government led to the global agencies pulling out while Naidu claimed that it was the result of the complaints YSRCP had lodged while in opposition.

Announcing a series of sops for various sections of the society to fulfil his poll promises over the last two-and-half months, Jagan Reddy nowhere mentioned Amaravati, not even at the diplomatic outreach event attended by diplomats and representatives of 30 countries last month.

In the budget for 2019-20, the government allocated a mere Rs 500 crore for Amaravati, throwing another clear indication that the state capital was not his priority.

This also triggered speculations that Jagan Reddy might altogether dump Amaravati as the state capital as it was the brainchild of Chandrababu Naidu. However, analysts have said that he might not be able to do this.

They believe that Jagan Reddy might go for a core city capital with basic infrastructure and structures for the administration. He might dump Naidu's grandiose plans to build a 'world-class' city with iconic structures.

"Amaravati is not high on his priorities but it is only propaganda that he will dump it all together," political analyst Telakapalli Ravi told IANS.

"Jagan Mohan Reddy will complete basic buildings required for the capital and roads with no hype. He may go with a skeletal plan," he said.

Analysts believe that Jagan Reddy might not dump Amaravati as the state capital is functioning from there for four years and that any move to shift the capital will prove counter-productive for him.

"He can't drop the capital or shift it to some other place. He will build a low-key capital and not a global city as Chandrababu Naidu wanted," said Ravi.

Like Chandrababu Naidu, Jagan Reddy also comes from the backward and drought-prone Rayalaseema region but he fully realizes that the area near Vijayawada in south coastal Andhra is best suited for the capital from all angles including its central location.

"Amaravati has the strategic and geographic advantage of being located centrally in Andhra Pradesh. So, it might not be easy to shift the capital from the current location. Any attempt to shift the capital will be opposed by a large section of people in the coastal districts," analyst P. Raghava Reddy told IANS.

"However, Jagan Mohan Reddy can go for decentralize development. Instead of focusing on getting all government and private institutions within the limits of Amaravati, the Chief Minister could restrict the region to core capital or administrative capital; and relocate any proposed institutions across the state," he said.

The plans drawn by Naidu for the development of Amaravati in three phases required a whopping Rs 1.5 lakh crore. The state so far got only Rs 1,500 crore from the Centre.

Before Andhra Pradesh went into election mood early this year, works valued at Rs 38,000 crore were ongoing while works for another Rs 12,000 crore were under tender and planning stage.

Works were going on various projects like laying of roads, basic amenities, construction of housing towers for MLAs, all India service officers, state government employees, secretariat, building for heads of the departments and permanent high court.

With nine theme cities and 27 townships, Amaravati was planned in an area of 217 square kilometres as a world-class city.

The Singapore government had made a free master plan for the capital region, the capital city and seed area. It was designed not merely an administrative capital but as an economic and job-creating hub and tourism centre.

Amaravati had then attracted the attention of investors from countries like Australia, Japan, Germany, Singapore and Britain.

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