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Visakhapatnam: A capital and a political smokescreen

AP finance minister’s remarks on three capitals reignite political debate

A view of Visakhapatnam city | A view of Visakhapatnam city

On January 31, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy announced to a room full of international delegates that “Visakhapatnam is going to be the state's capital in the days to come.” He followed it up by a reaffirming statement that he will also be shifting to Vizag in the near future.

The chief minister was speaking at the International Diplomatic Alliance meet in Delhi which was a curtain raiser for the Global Investors Summit to be held in March in the coastal city.

Two weeks later, at a roadshow held in Bengaluru in connection with the upcoming Summit, AP Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath reminded the audience that Vizag will be the capital and marketed it as one of the best global cities. He went a step ahead and felt that there was a “miscommunication” surrounding the three capitals.

Rajendranath sought to downplay the importance of Kurnool and Amaravathi, the proposed Judicial and Legislature capitals, respectively, as per the three capital bill that was withdrawn in 2021. The minister indicated that there could be a high court bench in Kurnool and an Assembly session in Amaravathi, keeping in mind the sub-regional interests of the people.

IT and Industries Minister Gudivada Amarnath also echoed the words of the chief minister and the finance minister about the status of Vizag at the roadshow.

The investors' meets organised by the Andhra Pradesh government outside the state are turning into a platform to prop up Visakhapatnam as the main state capital, besides projecting it as a potential destination for investments. These statements emerging from the ruling party camp have generated a lot of interest and heat, with opposition parties criticising the government.

Will the three-capital bill now be introduced with some changes? Will Vizag be the sole capital in a new bill? Most importantly, what is the strategy of the YSR Congress Party? Is there a deliberate attempt to confuse political opponents with Vizag as a smokescreen, ahead of state elections scheduled to be held next year?

One week back, Rajya Sabha MP of YSRCP, Vijay Sai Reddy had sought a reply through an unstarred question from the home ministry on where they stand on allowing states to choose their capital and whether it has a bearing on AP High Court’s earlier judgement disallowing the state government to have more than one capital. Nityananand Rai, the Minister of State for Home, refused to elaborate since the matter is sub-judice and replied that Amaravati is still the capital of the state.

The state government has challenged an AP High Court order which directed the state last year to develop the capital in Amaravati as planned earlier. In the midst of this, it came as a surprise as to why Vijay Sai Reddy broached the subject at this point. Surprisingly, the reply from MHA did not seem to go in favour of YSRCP which seems to enjoy cordial relations with the NDA government at the Centre.

A section of YSRCP leaders back home tried to clarify that the party is still sticking to the earlier plan to develop three capitals for the decentralisation of the state. Within the BJP, there is a voice that is dead against the three capital plan and a section who is taking a liking to the idea of Vizag as the state capital, going by the recent reactions of the party leaders.

Meanwhile, the TDP has criticised the Jagan government’s latest stand, but in a measured way. Political analysts feel that the outcome of this round of showdown will decide how much a state capital matters for the people as well as the parties. They feel that TDP is slowly trying to shed their aggressive stand to reinstate Amaravathi as the state capital. Going by the party sources, it is also a possibility that the churn created by the YSRCP with its latest move on capital might be an attempt to provide a dummy agenda to opposition parties. After all, the party feels that as a poll issue, their welfare schemes are a champion transforming rural households and not the proposed development of state capital.

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