Sometimes ideas can sound good, but when it comes to implementation they need to be tested for feasibility and, importantly, timing. Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy hinted on Tuesday that the South African model of three capitals was best suited in his State and that his government would work towards this. In South Africa, the administrative capital is in Pretoria, its national legislature in Cape Town and its judicial capital in Bloemfontein. Mr. Reddy’s idea seems to stem from the reasoning that a distribution of executive, legislative and judicial governance across Visakhapatnam, Amaravati (the current capital) and Kurnool would allow for “a decentralised development of the State”. The location choices are in the upper, central and lower geographical regions. Such an arrangement follows the recommendations of the expert committee appointed by the Home Affairs Ministry in 2014 to study alternatives for a new capital. Chaired by K.C. Sivaramakrishnan, the panel had argued against the need for a greenfield capital city and to instead focus on distributing locations of governance beyond the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali-Mangalagiri urban area, while utilising the time period of 10 years to continue functions from Hyderabad after bifurcation. The Chief Minister’s idea has got support from the government-appointed G.N. Rao committee ; it has recommended that the Assembly’s location be retained at Amaravati, with the Secretariat and High Court moved to Visakhapatnam and Kurnool, respectively.
Despite the expert committee’s recommendations, the A.P. government led by the Telugu Desam Party had decided to build a grand capital in Amaravati, and had acquired large parcels of land from farmers. The Secretariat and Legislative Assembly were shifted to Amaravati in 2016, while the High Court began functioning in the beginning of 2019. Amaravati, which still requires significant development, has become a functioning State capital for all purposes now. But it is no surprise that many farmers, who had agreed to give up fertile land for the expansion of the capital as part of a land pooling scheme and were to have received residential and commercial plots among other forms of compensation, have protested the decision to decentralise capital functions. If the government limits Amaravati to hosting only the Assembly, it must take into account the concerns of affected farmers. That said, the fact that considerable work has been completed in Amaravati to utilise the fledgling city as a functioning capital must be taken into account before embarking upon the “decentralisation” idea, which was best served before the works in Amaravati began. Abandoning the plan that is already in place will render the grand city an unviable one. As in politics, in governance, timing is everything.