The design of Naidu’s dream capital city Amaravati
The design of Naidu’s dream capital city Amaravati

Andhra’s Unrelenting Capital Conundrum

Will Jagan accommodate views of his homeland Rayalaseema or will real estate lobbies win once again?

Jinka Nagaraju

Jinka Nagaraju

Chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy has successfully dismantled the concept of world class capital which ecologists as well as former administrators argued as ill-conceived.

State municipal administration minister Botsa Satyanayarana made it clear that the location where Amaravati was proposed to be constructed was not an ideal site for a capital.

He said the insiders of TDP got wind of the location much before its announcement in 2014 and purchased vast tracts of lands. The minister also named Rajya Sabha TDP member Sujana Chowdary, now in BJP, as one of the beneficiaries of Amaravati insider-trading.

There is an all-round impression that Amaravati, which reeks of caste, corruption and business interests of TDP ruling elite is gone.

The situation has rekindled the regional aspirations in Rayalaseema, a region which has produced 8 chief ministers in the past 60 years but gained little in return. Each of the four districts of the region has given two chief ministers, a record of sorts in India.

Still, the leaders of the region echo almost same demands which were first voiced in 1934, the year when Rayalaseema consciousness found its expression in the formation of Rayalaseema Maha Sabha (RMS).

The year 2019 is, in fact, the diamond jubilee year of Justice for Rayalaseema demand.

Stalwarts from the region met at Madras' Pacchayappa College on January 28, 1934, to highlight the injustice being meted out to the Rayalaseema.

As the meeting took place amid the growing demand for the creation of the separate state for Telugus, the location of the capital naturally figured prominently in the deliberations.

Rayalaseema leaders were particular about the capital city. They were categorical that an Andhra state with Madras capital alone was acceptable to them.

In fact, when the subject of demand for Andhra province came up before the Madras Legislative Council, Kadapa Kotireddy, a prominent leader from the region moved an amendment to make Madras as the capital of the proposed new state. The move, however, was defeated by one vote by the leaders from coastal Andhra.

In retaliation, Rayalaseema members sought to defeat a bill that seeks to include the Rayalaseema districts in the jurisdiction of Andhra University, moved by a member from coastal Andhra.

Such was the bitter animosity between the two regions that Rayalaseema leaders had to be persuaded with great difficulty to agree for a separate Andhra State. The leaders of two regions came to an understanding in the form of Sribagh Pact (1937) which gives Rayalaseema the right to choose between the capital city and High Court for its location once the state is formed.

Accordingly Kurnool was chosen the capital of the Andhra state when the first linguistic state was carved out of Madras on October 1, 1953. But the region was robbed of the capital when the larger Andhra Pradesh was created with Hyderabad as the capital by merging Andhra and Telangana in 1956. Since Andhra state was reborn in 2014, Rayalaseema activists want back their capital.

Last week, activists of Rayalaseema Saguneeti Sadhana Samiti demanded that October 01 be celebrated as the state formation day as on this day in 1953 Andhra state was carved out from the erstwhile Madras state.

After demerger of united Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in 2014, the residuary Andhra Pradesh is nothing but the Andhra state which was formed with Kurnool as capital in 1953, they argue.

The Rayalaseema Vidyavantual Vedika led by Makireddy Purushottama Reddy demands that the Sribagh Pact alone should guide the location of the new capital of Andhra Pradesh and Amaravati should be abandoned as capital.

As many as 14 MLAs from ruling YSR Congress also urged the chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy to restore the capital status to Kurnool.

What is happening now in Rayalaseema is the fourth wave of agitation.

While the last three instances failed to achieve its goal due to the opportunism of the leadership, the current round appears to be inching towards the realisation of capital demand in one form or the other.

Chief minister Jagan, also a leader from Rayalaseema, this time around, could not afford to give short shrift to Sribagh Pact.

The first phase of Rayalaseema campaign (1934-1937) opposed the very idea of a Telugu state as the region's leaders feared coastal hegemony. With the signing of Sribagh Pact in 1937 which promised capital city to the region, the RMS ceased to exist.

A second round of Rayalaseema Maha Sabha (1938-1948) with a new leadership had to be launched as the region's leadership found no change in the attitude towards Rayalaseema even after the formation of popular governments led by Rajaji and Prakasam.

After about ten years of vigorous campaign for regional identity and economic prosperity, the second stage of Rayalaseema campaign stoutly resolved to eschew the separate state demand and remain in Madras state.

But the campaign was put on hold first in order for the members to participate in the Purna Swaraj movement, and later tapered due to leadership issues.

The third phase of Rayalaseema campaign took place during the recent Telangana movement and leaders resumed the age-old demand for the location of the capital in the region i.e in Kurnool.

A section of leaders favoured a greenfield capital near Donakonda in Prakasam district. But the campaign fizzled out following the TDP's win in 2014 elections.

The new crop of leaders, mostly rich and businessmen, jettisoned the movement to join TDP for power and pelf.

Naidu, a master of illusion, with utter disregard for Rayalaseema's demand had floated the idea of the construction of second Hyderabad and world-class capital on the banks River Krishna in Guntur district.

Many Rayalaseema politicians, irrespective of the party, saw enormous real estate potential in the idea of Amaravati and backed it.

A social worker Gopireddy Srinivasulu Reddy of Nandyal says the demolition of the idea of Chandrababu Naidu's world-class capital, which was sought to be erected after a green-massacre, is a first step in the right direction to undo the injustice done to the backward regions of the state.

Dr E Venkatesu, an associate professor of Hyderabad Central University, cautioned chief minister Jagan against falling prey to the real estate lure of the new capital.

Citing the media reports that Jagan had plans to build the new greenfield capital at Donakonda in Prakasam district, Dr Venkatesh said it would prove another costly mistake by Jagan if the reports were true.

“Experts such as Sivaramakrishnan, after studying various capital city models, have suggested that 1000 acres is enough for a capital city and it should not become a burden on the people, environment, land and other resources," Venkatesh said.

The history has presented Jagan with a great opportunity to prove that he is an exception.

Even though he has been maintaining a stoic silence on the fate of the capital city, he should clarify that his government would not be guided by real estate interests.

The Rayalaseema activists are hopeful that Jagan would take their views also into consideration while zeroing on the location of Andhra capital.

Meanwhile, the TDP is mulling a "Save Amaravati" campaign.

The Lede