The Congress party’s announcement on the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has triggered hectic lobbying for a new capital for the truncated State, with as many as six cities in the race.
Though Hyderabad will remain the joint capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for 10 years, there is a growing demand to identify the new capital well in advance so that its all-round development on par with Twin Cities is assured. Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada-Guntur, Ongole, Kurnool, Rajahmundry and Tirupati are vying for the coveted honour.
While political leaders are going all out to project their respective cities as potential options for the capital, drawbacks overshadow the advantages these cities have. The port city of Visakhapatnam, which is endowed with a developed infrastructure, land and a cosmopolitan culture, besides road, rail and air connectivity and a modern port, suits the capital tag. But its location in one corner of Andhra Pradesh could go against it as people from distant Rayalaseema may find it a problem. Ongole, the headquarters of Prakasam district, has suddenly come into the limelight as the best-suited place. The vast stretches of government land in and around Ongole are ideally touted as suitable for developing a new capital. More importantly, its strategic location from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema boosts its prospects. The only problem seems to be the severe drinking water shortage during summer. There is a demand to establish a new capital between Vijayawada and Guntur. Non-availability of government land and sky-rocketing prices of private lands are major drawbacks. However, locals say that the sprawling Acharya Nagarjuna University campus is most suited to house the Legislature, Secretariat, Raj Bhavan and government offices.
The first capital of Andhra State, Kurnool, the gateway to Rayalaseema, is also in the reckoning, with local leaders demanding that if a new State is carved out, the city should regain its old glory. It lacks sufficient infrastructure and is slowly limping back to progress after being submerged in the 2009 floods.
There is a demand to make Tirupati the capital as it is developed and draws lakhs of pilgrims. Those favouring the place say that its accessibility to Chennai and other nearby districts should be taken into account. Rajahmundry is also in the race, but non-availability of land could be its disadvantage though availability of abundant water and good irrigation facilities are being projected as the advantages. Leaders are highlighting the 7,500 acres of reserve forest abutting the city that could be considered for building the new capital.
There is also talk that the Centre should zero in on the right place after holding consultations with the public, civil society organisations and elected representatives.