AP’s multi-capital debate | Three’s a crowd?

A view of the Andhra Pradesh High Court building at Nelapadu village capital area in Amaravati.

A view of the Andhra Pradesh High Court building at Nelapadu village capital area in Amaravati. | Photo Credit: V. Raju

The proposed three capitals for Andhra Pradesh continue to be in a limbo due to the protracted litigation in the High Court and the spirited battle being waged outside by thousands of farmers who gave up their fertile lands for the development of Amaravati as a single capital city.

The High Court said on March 3, 2022, that the State should develop Amaravati as the capital of Andhra Pradesh, consequent to its lack of legislative competence to change or trifurcate the capital.

In response, the State government filed a petition earlier this month, requesting that it be given five years’ time, citing the difficulty in accomplishing the task in a short time (one month for infrastructure creation and six months for construction and development Amaravati from the date of judgement) and the severe financial constraints it is grappling with since bifurcation.

Meanwhile, the State government claimed to have resumed the works which were suspended soon after the YSR Congress came to power in May 2019 and said it is in the process of raising loans from banks.

Here lies a big problem: banks have made it clear that only a consortium of banks (a single bank cannot lend huge sums) can provide the credit required by the government.

Quest for loans

A bigger hurdle is the stipulation by the banks that the “revenue stream of the borrower (the government) should be reflected in the financial model” and “any budgetary support for servicing repayment obligations will not be considered”.

These conditions have essentially tied the government in knots as complying with those procedures and obtaining final approvals from the lending institutions is itself a time-taking process and the government had to struggle to bridge the revenue deficit that is widening over the years.

Besides, the economy is going through a turmoil largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As it is, the government is running on a shoestring budget, which leaves no scope for it to meet the large expenditure entailed by the development of Amaravati even in separate tranches.

On the other side is Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s strong desire to have the three capitals in Amaravati, Visakhapatnam and Kurnool, about which he is clear in spite of the setback suffered by the government in the court.

At the time of repealing the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Act 2020 and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Act in the State Legislature, he was on record, saying that the government would come up with a fresh Bill to give the three capitals a tangible shape sooner than later, much to the chagrin of farmers who believed that the idea was given up once and for all.

Again they took to legal recourse with the plea that their petitions survive even after the impugned Acts have been repealed, insisting that it was a question of continuity of governance and their right to livelihood and the fate of their future generations were at stake.

However, the new law proposed by the Chief Minister has so far not been introduced in the Legislature due to the risks involved in doing so as such a move is bound to be considered contempt of court and may lead to escalating the dispute to the Supreme Court.

Justice Gopala Gowda, retired judge of the Supreme Court who had been a vocal critic of the three capitals proposal, said in a recent workshop organised by the Amaravati Parirakshana Samithi, that the High Court judgment is the law till it is set aside by the Supreme Court as per Article 13 of the Constitution.

He said that not only the Chief Secretary but also all members of the State Legislature, including the Ministers, were jointly and severally liable to action for not implementing the order.

Therefore, it remains to be seen whether the Chief Minister will stick to Amaravati or proceed with the idea of three capitals and if the move derives any electoral mileage for the YSR Congress in the north Andhra districts and Rayalaseema.

The future of Amaravati, which former Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu had projected as “a global city in the making”, is thus going to be decided in the next couple of years at the end of which Hyderabad will cease to be the common capital of AP and Telangana as per the AP Reorganisation Act, 2014.


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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 6:19:59 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/threes-a-crowd/article65568592.ece