Opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh have thrown their weight behind the protests by farmers in the state’s Amaravati region against the YSRCP government’s proposal to decentralise the capital.
While the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has been backing the protests for close to a month now, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), CPI and actor-politician Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP) have also joined hands with the farmers.
Parties including the TDP and CPI have also come together under the aegis of the Amaravati Parirakshana Samiti (Committee for protection of Amaravati), and formed a Joint Action Committee (JAC) to take up the cause.
So where do each of the parties stand on the issue?
When the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSRCP government swept to power in May last year, all construction work in Amaravati was halted. In December, the state government mooted a proposal to set up three capitals – retain a legislative capital in Amaravati, set up an executive one in Visakhapatnam and a judicial capital in Kurnool.
The YSRCP has said that the capital project in its present form is ‘unfeasible’, as the state government does not have the funds required.
The state government has also relied on two expert committees, one led by retired bureaucrat GN Rao and one by the Boston Consultancy Group (BCG), both of which have suggested decentralisation of the capital.
Jagan, on his part, has also argued that true decentralisation of development can only take place with the decentralisation of the capital.
“From village to state administration, all are equal. Fruits of development and governance should reach all sections of people. We will correct the wrong decisions made in the past,” he had said earlier in January.
The TDP, which has been at the forefront of the protests, has accused the YSRCP of going back on a promise made by the state government. It was the TDP, led by former Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, which had in 2015 declared Amaravati, a region comprising 29 villages in Guntur district, as the state’s capital.
Naidu had promised to set up a world-class metropolis along the banks of the Krishna river and the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) was formed to acquire and pool land for the project.
The TDP is demanding that the capital remain in Amaravati, as it was a promise made by the state government, irrespective of political affiliation.
The party also points out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone for the development of Amaravati on October 22, 2015, and demands that the Centre intervene in the issue.
BJP state President Kanna Lakshmi Narayana has also visited the agitating farmers and extended solidarity.
“The state capital should not be changed whenever a regime changes. The union government granted funds for the development of the capital after the farmers surrendered their lands. The state’s development will be hit if the capital is relocated,” Kanna had said last month.
BJP Rajya Sabha member YS Chowdary has also visited Amaravati and lashed out at the YSRCP government and said that the Centre would not ‘sit quietly’ over the proposal.
“The Centre will not sit quietly. I have discussed it with the Centre. We know what rights the Centre has and we will show that when it is necessary. We know when to use our powers. There is a need for people from all 13 districts to protest against this move,” Chowdary had told the farmers at the time.
Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kishan Reddy, who hails from Hyderabad, had also commented on the issue, telling farmers who met him over the matter, “It is the state government’s responsibility to ensure that the farmers who parted with their lands for the construction of Amaravati get justice.”
On Monday, Pawan Kalyan met with BJP Working President JP Nadda in New Delhi over the issue.
The Jana Sena Party has also been clear on its stand on the capital issue. In December, Pawan had toured villages in the Amaravati region and backed the protesting farmers.
“We have made it clear that the administration should work from one place and development must be decentralised. The YSRCP government must give clarity on the capital city issue. It has to inform people how the concept of three capital cities is possible,” the JSP chief had said earlier this week.
“The BJP-led NDA government has a pivotal role. It cannot let unrest prevail in the state as that could threaten national integrity,” he added.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) has also lashed out at Jagan over the proposal. CPI leader K Narayana backed Chandrababu Naidu’s proposal to ‘self-finance’ the project and said that it was unwise to split the capital as Amaravati was centrally located.
Narayana asked Jagan to opt for re-election and campaign on the proposal to decentralise the capital. Pointing out that Jagan had agreed to continue Amaravati as the capital in the state’s Assembly but had taken a u-turn after coming to power, Narayana had said, “Why don’t you make it part of the election manifesto and let the people decide if they want to vote for you again?”
For now, all eyes are on a high-power committee that was constituted by the state government on December 29 to examine the recommendations of both the expert committees and take a final call.