Return of TDP is the return of Amaravati as Andhra Pradesh’s sole capital

In December, 2019, the then Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced in the state Assembly that three state capitals will be developed reversing the decision of the previous TDP government to develop Amaravati as the state capital.
Chandrababu Naidu’s Singapore vision for Amaravati
Chandrababu Naidu’s Singapore vision for Amaravati
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The return of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to power in Andhra Pradesh has brought the spotlight back on Amaravati, an area between Vijayawada and Guntur towns, renewing the hope of farmers and other residents of the area, who had been fighting for more than four years against the previous YSR Congress Party’s (YSRCP) move to shift the state capital and operate chiefly out of Visakhapatnam.

The return of TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who envisioned Amaravati on the banks of the Krishna River as a dream capital and world-class city about a decade ago, has reaffirmed that TDP will be the only state capital.

The landslide victory of the TDP-Jana Sena-BJP alliance and Chandrababu Naidu's announcement that Amaravati is the state capital has come as a big relief for farmers, who had given up 33,000 acres of land across three districts for development of the state capital under a land pooling project.

Even before the swearing-in of the new TDP led state government, authorities started laying the ground for the resumption of works on the greenfield capital city after a gap of five years. Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) has started clearing bushes and shrubs around important buildings in Amaravati to signal that the new government will go for a full-scale resumption of works.

The CRDA employed dozens of workers and roped in 83 cranes and tippers to clear bushes around the Secretariat, High Court, Seed Access Road and under-construction buildings like residential quarters for ministers, judges and legislators.

The works on residential quarters and other components of the mega project came to a halt in December 2019 after the YSRCP government reversed the decision of the earlier TDP government to develop Amaravati as the state capital.

Neerabh Kumar Prasad, who took over as the State Chief Secretary four days ago, is overseeing the works currently underway to know the status of the project. On December 17, 2023, protests by farmers and women of Amaravati completed four years.

In December, 2019, the then Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy announced in the state Assembly that three state capitals will be developed reversing the decision of the previous TDP government to develop Amaravati as the state capital.

The government planned to develop Visakhapatnam as the administrative capital, Kurnool as the judicial capital and Amaravati only as a legislative capital. The farmers were up in arms and legally challenged the move.

Amaravati Parirakshana Samithi (APS), which is spearheading the movement against three capitals, undertook two padayatra during the last two years to mobilise public support for their demand.

On March 3, 2022, the Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the state government to develop Amaravati as the state capital in six months. In November 2022, the Supreme Court while hearing the Special Leave Petition filed by the state government, stayed the High Court's directions to develop infrastructure in Amaravati within a stipulated time frame.

The Supreme Court, however, did not stay the other part of the judgement, which had declared Amaravati as the state capital and that the law on three capitals was not valid. The new government is likely to resume works from Uddandarayunipalem, the place where the foundation stone was laid in October 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Chandrababu Naidu had got the master plan for Amaravati prepared by companies based out of Singapore. With nine theme cities and 27 townships, it was planned in an area of 217 square km as a world-class city.

Naidu's grandiose plans to build the state capital require an estimated Rs 1.5 lakh crore. Works worth Rs 38,000 crore on projects like roads and state secretariat complex were launched in 2018.

However, the Jagan government alleged in 2022 that Chandrababu Naidu and other leaders of TDP resorted to insider trading as they were privy to the information where the new capital was going to be located and purchased prime land at throwaway prices. The new TDP government put on hold all the works in Amaravati, citing the irregularities committed by the previous YSRCP government in awarding contracts.

The construction activity came to a grinding halt and created an atmosphere of uncertainty, leading to a big slump in land prices. The World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) were the first to pull out of a project to fund Amaravati's development.

The World Bank and AIIB had committed $300 million and $200 million, respectively, for the project. The biggest blow came when a consortium of Singapore companies closed the Amaravati Capital City Startup Project, the agreement for which was signed by the then TDP government.

The government said they mutually decided to cancel the project as the consortium had failed to respond to the concerns raised. Unfazed by Chandrababu Naidu's criticism that the government is killing a golden goose, YSRCP leaders said that during his five-year rule, only five per cent of works were completed by spending Rs 4,900 crore.

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