Yes, It's Vijayawada. Andhra Pradesh Has a New Capital

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Yes, It's Vijayawada. Andhra Pradesh Has a New Capital

Prakasam barrage on the Krishna river, connecting Krishna and Guntur districts

Hyderabad:  Nearly an hour before the time recommended by astrologers, Chandrababu Naidu glanced at the clock in the Andhra Pradesh assembly and announced that the state's new capital will be located in the fertile Vijayawada region.

Mr Naidu, who returned in May as chief minister after 10 years, said the decision reflects "popular sentiment," a claim belied by rambunctious opposition leaders in the assembly. In particular, the YSR Congress, headed by Jagan Mohan Reddy, said Naidu was taking unilateral decisions, without any consultations or discussion.

To sarcastic jibes from ruling party leaders on whether he wanted the capital in his native village and constituency, Jagan retorted, "We are not asking for the capital to be located in Idupulapaya or Pulivendula. Let us build where there is land available, not what suits some leaders of the Telugu Desam."

There have been protests in Rayalaseema, a region much poorer than Coastal Andhra Pradesh. Kurnool says it should be restored its past glory and had demanded that I should be declared the new capital. Another veto for Vijayawada came from a committee tasked by the union government to identify a suitable capital. Its members felt there simply isn't enough land there to host a capital; they also stressed that acquiring farms will be costly and laborious for the government.

"Vijayawada and Guntur lands, there is two, even three crops in a year. All that will now be gone," said C Anjaneya Reddy, who heads the Concerned Citizens Forum and believes that real estate interest has dictated the capital decision.

But Mr Naidu has for weeks thrown heavy-handed hints that he would choose the commercial hub of Vijayawada, home to the powerful and affluent Kamma community, an important support base for the Chief Minister. In concert with the speculation, land prices in and around the town have escalated to dizzying highs. What's more worrying is that over the past few months, large chunks of land have reportedly been bought by businessmen and politicians, who hope to make a killing. Today, ladoos or sweets were distributed in the streets of Vijayawada town, in celebration of the investment that will flow in.

In June, Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated to create India's youngest state, Telangana. For 10 years, Andhra Pradesh has the right to share the prosperous IT hub of Hyderabad as its capital with Telangana. But after that, the city, developed as a Silicon Valley of sorts by Mr Naidu when he was last in power, will belong to Telangana.

Mr Naidu has pledged to do even better this time around, promising a metropolis that will rival Singapore. He has said though he is locating the capital around Vijayawada, he will develop Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and Tirupati as world class mega cities, along with 14 other smart cities. International airports are to come up in the mega cities. No timeline has been specified for the ambitious plans though Mr Naidu's Information Minister Palle Raghunath Reddy is confident that with Naidu in the CM's chair, the capital will be ready in three to four years.

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