Why Naidu's Xanadu is in triple trouble

The good people of Andhra are in a capital quandary

The good people of Andhra are in a capital quandary. Literally. They don’t know where they are going to be ruled from.

CM Jagan Reddy says they will have three capitals—a legislative capital in Amaravati, an executive one in Visakhapatnam, and a judicial city in Kurnool. That means, laws will be made in Amaravati, implemented from Vizag, and adjudicated in Kurnool. Isn’t that taking separation of powers too far—literally, figuratively, and physically?

Several states have or have had twin capitals. Most of the Lodis and many of the Mughals ruled from Delhi and Agra. The British ruled from Shimla in summer, and from Kolkata (later Delhi) at other times. Jammu and Kashmir, when it was a state with elected rulers, was ruled from Srinagar in summer and Jammu in winter. Maharashtra holds the winter session of its assembly in Nagpur. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Kerala have kept their high courts miles away from their political capitals.

Illustration: Job P.K. Illustration: Job P.K.

But three capitals? That’s unheard of even in this mad, mad world. Only the South Africans have tried it. They have their rulers in Pretoria, lawmakers in Cape Town, and judges in Bloemfontein. The people hardly bother, minding their own businesses in Johannesburg.

Time was when there was one big Andhra Pradesh, the first state that was carved out on the basis of language. Nine years ago, the state got split over development disputes into Telangana and Andhra. Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat its mistakes. We knew from the Chandigarh experience that a joint capital can be prescription for trouble. Yet, it was decided that Hyderabad shall be their joint capital for 10 years.

But Telugu Desam supremo Chandrababu Naidu, who ruled over a truncated Andhra Pradesh, decided he would have his own capital sooner than later. Like the opiated S.T. Coleridge’s Kubla Khan who decreed a pleasure dome in Xanadu, Naidu decreed dream towers on the fertile plains of Amaravati, where Krishna, the sacred river, runs over shimmering sandbanks.

Land prices shot up in no time, the government bought it all up, and Naidu’s Xanadu began to take shape. And poof! Like the ‘person from Porlock’ who woke up Coleridge from his opium dream, the people voted out Naidu and voted in YSR Congress chief Jagan Reddy.

Reddy decided that his people too should have their share of the Xanadu pie. So he decreed two more Xanadus, one in Kurnool for the high court, and another in Visakhapatnam for him. But the high court threw cold water on his dreams, and asked him to pack it all in Amaravati.

Reddy’s appeal is since pending in the Supreme Court, but last month he surprised all by telling global investors that he would shift to Visakhapatnam “in the months to come”. How he would keep his word if the court rules against it is an opiated guess, especially with depleted funds in the state treasury.

Now Reddy and Naidu are trading charges. Reddy’s men say Kamma land sharks had been tipped off about the Amaravati Xanadu well before it was dreamt of, and they had bought about 4,000 acres which they sold to government at huge profits. Naidu’s men counter that Reddy landlords are making a killing around Vizag now, and that the Reddy regime is leasing out houses meant for government staff to private people.

Gentlemen, learn from Chhattisgarh. BJP’s Raman Singh was building his Naya Raipur there when he was voted out. Successor Bhupesh Baghel of the Congress didn’t dream of new cities a hundred miles away, but is planning to expand Raman’s pleasure dome over neighbouring townships.