Andhra Assembly withdraws three-capital Bills, govt to bring in 'improved' law later

Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy told the Assembly that the government will return to the House with a “comprehensive, improved Bill.”
Andhra Assembly withdraws three-capital Bills, Jagan government to bring in 'improved' law later
Andhra Assembly withdraws three-capital Bills, Jagan government to bring in 'improved' law later
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The Andhra Pradesh government on Monday, November 22, passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions (Repeal) Bill, 2021 in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, thus repealing its earlier laws on the trifurcation of the state’s capital. The Bill was introduced by Andhra Pradesh Minister for Finance, Planning and Legislative Affairs Buggana Rajendranath. There had been severe opposition by the TDP, as well as protests by farmers in Amaravati, over the Andhra government’s move to make three cities the state capital of Andhra Pradesh — Visakhapatnam was to be the executive capital, Amaravati the legislative capital and Kurnool was to be the judicial capital.

The government is likely to reintroduce the proposal again in the Assembly at a later time, given that its biggest impediment — TDP having a majority in the Legislative Council, no longer poses a challenge, as YSRCP now has a majority in both Houses.  

Speaking when the Bill was being tabled, Jagan said, “Everyone knows the TDP government’s decision to set up a capital in Amaravati was controversial, and that it went against the Sivaramakrishnan committee report. I have nothing against this region. I am even fond of this region. But this region is neither exactly in Guntur or Vijayawada. There is no basic infrastructure, like roads, electricity, drainage. It was estimated to cost Rs 1 lakh crores to set up infrastructure, according to the TDP government itself.” 

“In ten years, this cost would shoot up further. It is unfair to mislead people about a big, imaginary capital, when we can’t even afford to have proper roads. Vizag on the other hand already is the biggest city in the state, it already has all basic infrastructure. If we work on beautification and other amenities, it can realistically be developed to compete with cities like Hyderabad within ten years,” he added.

Jagan said that the three-capital idea was floated with the idea of uniform development in mind. “Since then, many misconceptions have been created around it, along with many legal hurdles. It is in these circumstances that we are having to make this announcement. As soon as the capital decentralisation Bills were passed, if the trifurcation process had begun, we would have been able to see the positive results by now,” he said. 

Stating that in the 2019 elections, people’s mandate made it clear that repeating a super capital model like Hyderabad is not what they wanted, Jagan added, “Amidst the negative publicity, misconceptions and legal hurdles, some have also said that a few people would face injustice as a result of this move. In this context, to properly elaborate the government’s good intentions in decentralising the capitals, the need for it, and to ensure all legal questions are answered in the Bill itself, to improve the Bill, to explain the issue in detail to people of all regions, and to make any other changes if needed, the government is withdrawing the Bill introduced earlier. Taking all these factors into account, the government will return to the House with a comprehensive, improved Bill.” 

Speaking before the Chief Minister and stressing the need for decentralised development, Rajendranath condemned the opposition to the YSRCP government’s three-capital proposal.  “When the government has taken such a good decision, why should there be even 1-2% of opposing thoughts? Let’s look into it one more time. Let’s meet again. Even if a small number of people are influenced (by TDP), if they have any questions, we will address them. The policy will be redesigned with 100% acceptance of all stakeholders. With a lot of magnanimity, we are repealing the Bill.”  

Rajendranath stressed the need for decentralised development, noting that the Sivaramakrishnan Committee which had studied the feasibility of a new capital for Andhra Pradesh had also recommended the same. He also noted that in united Andhra Pradesh, development in the form of private and government investments, as well as establishment of major educational institutions, was heavily focused in Hyderabad. “Sixty percent of the resources were poured into the HMDA (Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority) area,” he said. 

“Like a city out of Baahubali, Chandrababu Naidu conceptualised a mythical capital of 7500 sq kms, despite the huge revenue deficit at the time,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Advocate General S Sriram had orally informed the Andhra Pradesh High Court of the government’s decision to withdraw the two Bills. The court had recently resumed a fresh hearing over multiple petitions challenging the Bills. 

While the previous TDP government had chosen the Amaravati region near Vijayawada as the state capital, the Jagan government halted all development works in the region since YSRCP came to power in May 2019. In December 2019, Jagan proposed trifurcation of the state capital into three — Visakhapatnam as the executive capital, Amaravati as the legislative capital and Kurnool as the judicial capital — in the interest of decentralised development. 

The move was opposed by thousands of farmers and landowners from the Amaravati region who had given up their land for the development of Amaravati as the sole capital, in exchange for developed plots in what was promised to be built as a world-class capital city by the TDP. After the TDP blocked the passage of the Bills in the Legislative Council the first time, the two Bills were passed in the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly for a second time in June 2020. While the TDP earlier enjoyed a majority in the 58-member Legislative Council, this has now changed, with the YSRCP set to acquire a majority with the upcoming MLC polls. 

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