When the Andhra Pradesh government proposed to have three capitals — Vishakhapatnam as the executive capital, Kurnool as the legal capital and Amaravati as the legislative capital — many farmers in Amaravati protested as they felt cheated. They had given up their land in the promise of getting developed plots when Amaravati was envisioned as the state capital. Now another protest regarding land and development has started, this time in Kurnool.
On Friday, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader P Thikka Reddy kickstarted a campaign to merge Kurnool Parliamentary constituency with neighbouring state Karnataka’s Ballari. The TDP leader in the region, led a protest at Mantralayam in the district, where several party cadre and leaders waved yellow flags and demanded that Kurnool be integrated with Karnataka.
Speaking to TNM, Thikka Reddy said that the state government, under the leadership of Jagan Mohan Reddy, is “cheating” the people of Kurnool by “making them believe” the Andhra Pradesh will have three capitals, “while they plan to shift development towards Vishakapatnam”.
“Kurnool was the capital of Andhra state between 1948 and 1956. When the reorganisation happened based on linguistic lines, we became a part of Andhra Pradesh, and Kurnool lost its identity as the state capital. Then, after bifurcation in 2014, it was decided that Amaravati would be the capital. Now, the Andhra government is making Vishakapatnam the actual capital. If this happens, Kurnool will not see any development,” he said, adding, “We'd rather become part of Ballari as we are Kannada speaking people and will be closer to the state capital Bengaluru.”
Kurnool and Ballari are neighbouring districts and were part of Madras Presidency. After Independence, Kurnool became part of Andhra state while Ballari remained in Mysore state.
According to the former legislator, five out of seven Assembly constituencies in Kurnool parliamentary segment has a massive Kannada-speaking population.
“In Mantralaya, Alooru, Pattikonda, Aaduni and Yemmiganuru, people mostly speak Kannada. People of Kurnool have their cultural history rooted in Karnataka. We are connected to people in Karnataka,” said Thikka Reddy.
“We have been perpetually at a loss. Kurnool is just a small town. After it lost its identity as the state capital in 1956, Kurnool has not seen much development. We don’t want Kurnool to be made a capital for namesake. If we become a part of Ballari, there is a better chance of development than any government in Andhra Pradesh,” he added.
Thikka Reddy said that he would contact all political parties in Kurnool and ask them to form a committee that would actively begin campaigning for the cause. “This plan is still in the nascent stage. In another month, we will begin actively campaigning for the cause once we come up with a manifesto,” he added.
A protest based on political fear?
Incidentally, this is the first time that TDP leaders have put forward such a demand. YSRCP sources say they believe this was another tactic to cause trouble.
TDP leaders claim that the movement is to counter Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy’s plan for three capitals, which, if implemented, may result in real estate prices going down in Amaravati. This, in turn, would be counterproductive to TDP’s agenda.
The former TDP government had pooled land from farmers and landowners from 29 villages of Amaravati for the ambitious capital project floated by former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu. With the YSRCP government now proposing to set up three capitals in Vizag, Kurnool and Amaravati, those who had pooled their land expecting developed plots in return, are worried about the capital status of Amaravati becoming diluted.
Another big blow to the TDP is that the members of the Kamma community, who are landowners in Amaravati and the party’s vote bank, would lose out on profits if multiple capitals came up in the state. However, Naidu refuted the claims and said that the TDP was committed to upholding the rights of farmers, who gave up their land.
“There have been several protests against having three capitals. There is already an agitation in Amaravati. If there is one in Kurnool as well, the government may reconsider the decision,” the TDP leader said.