The Andhra Pradesh assembly passed a controversial legislation aimed at establishing three capitals in the state amid protests by opposition leaders and farmers on Monday night. Proposed amendments to the bill by the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) were rejected by the house on a day that saw as many as 17 of its members getting suspended for "unruly behaviour".
Several TDP politicians, including former Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, were detained later in the night while trying to take out a march against the government's decision.
The YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government had introduced the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill-2020, aimed at giving shape to its plan for the tri-capital system, in the extended winter session of the assembly earlier in the day. It proposes to make Visakhapatnam the executive capital of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati its legislative capital and Kurnool its judicial capital.
The bill was tabled hours after the state cabinet cleared it. It now faces the uphill task of clearing the legislative council, where the ruling YSR Congress wields command over just nine of its 58 members.
Even as arguments over the bill were being taken up, hundreds of farmers and women from the state's Amaravati region broke through the security cordon in defiance of prohibitory orders and nearly breached the state legislature complex. Police resorted to a lathi-charge to disperse them.
The 17 TDP members were suspended when they continued shouting "Jai Amaravati" in spite of repeated appeals for silence. When they refused to leave the house, Speaker Tammineni Seetharam asked marshals to bodily carry them out. "We are not changing the capital as such. We are only adding two new capitals. Amaravati will remain the same. We will not do any injustice to any region," Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy said.
The previous TDP government under Chandrababu Naidu meant to establish a single capital at Amaravati, but the plan was scuttled by the YSR Congress government after it stormed to power in May by winning as many as 151 of the state's 171 seats. The move angered farmers in the region, who were already deeply invested in the previous government's plans.
"Nowhere in the world does one state have three capitals. Today is a black day, and we wanted to save Amaravati as well as Andhra Pradesh. Not only me, people are fighting and coming on roads throughout the state. The government is arresting everyone. This is bad for democracy," Chandrababu Naidu told ANI.
Jagan Mohan Reddy, however, maintains that the TDP chief's vision for Amaravati seems more like that for a "real estate project" than a state capital.
Besides setting the foundation for the three state capitals, the bill provides for dividing Andhra Pradesh into various zones and establishing zonal planning and development boards. The village and (municipal) ward secretariats system that the government brought in October last year now gets statutory backing as it has been made part of the new bill.