With this, Andhra is one step closer to having three capitals — a legislative one in Amaravati, an executive one in Visakhapatnam and a judicial capital in Kurnool.

Andhra Assembly passes bills to decentralise capital scrap Amaravati CRDA
news Governance Tuesday, January 21, 2020 - 08:27

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly on Monday passed two Bills to decentralise the state's capital, thereby facilitating the shifting of key capital functions from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam and Kurnool.

The first Bill was to repeal the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) Act, 2014 while the second was the 'Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill 2020'. Urban Development Minister Botsa Satyanarayana tabled the Capital Region Development Authority Repeal Bill, 2020, bringing curtains down on Amaravati as the only state capital, as envisaged by the TDP government.

The second Bill, introduced by state Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath, will focus on providing "decentralisation of governance and inclusive development of all regions of the state of Andhra Pradesh". It would also "provide for the establishment of zonal planning and development boards, apart from provision for the seats of governance in different regions of the state”.

With this, Andhra Pradesh is one step closer to having three capitals — a legislative one in Amaravati, an executive one in Visakhapatnam and a judicial capital in Kurnool. The Finance Minister said that three metropolitan regions will come up in Visakhapatnam, Amaravati, and Kurnool. 

Speaking after the Bills were introduced, Rajendranath made a case for decentralisation, saying that there was a danger of secessionist movements if the government ignores certain areas in the state. "Every region has its own needs and aspirations, and good governance must be able to address the concerns of all regions," he said.

With the YSRCP having a brute majority of 151 in the 175-member Assembly, it managed to pass the Bills with minimal opposition.    

Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy insisted that the capital wasn't being shifted, but two capitals were being 'added' to the state, assuring that Amaravati will not suffer any injustice.  

At one point during the Assembly, Leader of Opposition Chandrababu Naidu told Jagan that he was 'pleading with folded hands' not to shift the capital from Amaravati to Vizag. 

Seventeen TDP MLAs were suspended from the Assembly amid the pandemonium towards the end of the debate, which went on for nearly 12 hours. 

Meanwhile, several Opposition leaders were either detained or placed under house arrest as protests rocked the Amaravati region on Monday, ahead of the crucial Assembly session.

For more than a month, several farmers in all 29 villages of Amaravati have been staging protests, demanding that Amaravati be retained as the only capital. The farmers had given 33,000 acres of land for development of Amaravati as the state capital in 2015.

Thousands of policemen were deployed in Amaravati, Vijayawada and surrounding towns to prevent protesters from heading towards Assembly.

Zonal system 

As per the decentralisation Bill, the state will be divided into various regions or 'zones'. Each zone will be governed by a Board. While the Bill doesn't clearly define the members of the boards, the state government had earlier said that the boards would consist of nine, including the Chief Minister.

Defining the roles of each board, the Bill states that they will oversee the "preparation of a Zonal Development plan and project plans and coordinate its implementation". It will also recommend particular measures that are considered necessary “to accelerate the pace of development of the backward areas within that zone".

Besides the Chief Minister, the Board will have a vice-chairman, at least one MP, two MLAs and four other members to be nominated by the state government, the government had earlier said. An officer of the rank of a Principal Secretary and above will act as the full-time Secretary of the Board, it had added. 

The six-member committee of experts, headed by retired bureaucrat GN Rao, had recommended the zonal system of administration, modeled on neighbouring Karnataka. US-based consultancy firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG), too, made a similar recommendation.

"Further, the government is also planning to reorganise the existing districts in the state, so as to have the same number of districts as are parliamentary constituencies," Buggana Rajendranath had said in the statement of objects and reasons.  

What happens next?

With this, the Bills will go to the Legislative Council, which is scheduled to meet on January 21. However, in the Council, the TDP will have the upper hand as they hold 28 out of the 58 seats in the House, whereas YSRCP holds only nine seats, while the remaining are either held by the BJP or are nominated posts or are vacant.

With possible support of BJP and others, the TDP could effectively stall, albeit temporarily, any legislation.

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