In a massive show of strength, thousands gathered on the streets of Visakhapatnam today in support of making Vizag the executive capital of Andhra Pradesh and to press for decentralisation of the Jaganmohan Reddy government. Despite heavy rains, rally organisers Uttarandhra Joint Action Committee (JAC), advocating the three-capital plan, managed to get massive crowds, backed by the ruling establishment.
JAC supporters have argued that the coastal town in the northern stretch of Andhra Pradesh, popularly called Uttarandhra, is ideally suited to be made the executive capital, pointing out that Vizag already has the profile and necessary infrastructure and can be developed as the capital at no extra cost.
Organisers said students, teachers, lawyers, doctors, legislators and ministers had gathered in what was referred to as 'Visakha Garjana' to ask for the administrative capital to be located in Vizag.
Legislators and ministers joined the 3.5km 'Visakha Garjana' rally, that started from the Ambedkar statue and culminated in a public meeting at the YSR statue near RK Beach.
Senior party leader and Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam (TTD) Chairman YV Subba Reddy slammed the opposition for setting a false narrative and asserted that YSRCP is keen to develop Amaravati too.
"YSRCP is a people's party. The will of the people is three capitals for Andhra Pradesh to develop all regions of the state and that's why we are supporting JAC Visakha Garjana," he said.
"Vizag is developed in all measures and we need not spend a single penny on developing the city as the capital. With the existing establishments in Vizag, we can immediately start functioning from the capital as it is fully developed. Kurnool will also be developed as the judicial capital. That is the motto of our Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy who wants to ensure decentralisation of the administration," Subba Reddy said.
Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh's first Chief Minister after the erstwhile state was bifurcated, had proposed to build a new capital at Amaravati (in between Vijayawada and Guntur), for the state carved out after Telangana became a separate entity. Thousands of acres of land was acquired and thousands of crores were spent to build a greenfield capital, pending which a temporary secretariat and assembly were built in Velagapudi.
After YS Jaganmohan Reddy came to power in 2019, he proposed decentralisation and a three-capital plan, with Visakhapatnam as the administrative and executive capital, with the Secretariat and seat of power in the coastal city. Amaravati would continue to be the legislative capital with the assembly located there, while Kurnool would be the judicial capital with the high court located there.
The YSRCP government also booked cases, alleging a massive scam in acquisition of lands and allocation of projects for the state-of-the-art capital proposed by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government. It said the Capital Region Development Authority set up by the Naidu government was involved in several irregularities.
In November 2019, the YSRCP government scrapped the TDP government's plan to develop Amaravati as a state-of-the-art capital, for which they had entered into contract with a Singapore Consortium and its Indian partners.
More than 25,000 farmers, who had, as part of land pooling scheme for land acquisition to develop Amaravati, entered into agreements with the state government, alleged that it was a violation of the contracts with them.
Under the aegis of the Amaravathi Parirakshana Samiti, these farmers, supported by the TDP, organised a marches and protests throughout the state, travelling to Rayalaseema (southern Andhra Pradesh) and far northern Andhra Pradesh districts, demanding that the big plans for Amaravati should not be scrapped.
Realising that there could be legal challenges, in November 2021, the YSRCP government passed Bills to repeal the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act and the CRDA Repeal Act.
In a setback to the Jaganmohan Reddy government, on March 3, 2022, a full bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court ruled that the legislature has no competence to enact any law for shifting the three organs of the capital, citing decentralisation. It also said the state government and APCRDA must complete the process of development of Amaravati as the capital city within six months.
The Amaravati Parirakshana Samiti's protests caused flashpoints at several locations, with opinion strongly divided on what is the way forward for Andhra Pradesh.
In September, the state government filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court, challenging the High Court order.
The Andhra Pradesh government argues that the High Court judgement was in violation of the basic structure of the Constitution as the High Court cannot hold that the state does not have the powers to decide on its capital.
Some land-owners in Amaravati have filed caveat petitions in the High Court and Supreme Court court soon after the High Court ordered that the Amaravati masterplan should be implemented in six months.
The Amaravati Parirakshana Samiti has pleaded that the state's executive power should be controlled by directing it not to indulge in wastage of Rs 52,850 crores of public money that was spent on developing Amaravati.