It’s not just the suspense but confusion, too, that has been added to the mix regarding the fate of Amaravati, the multi-billion dollar ‘dream capital’ of the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, N Chandrababu Naidu.
With works brought to a grinding halt by the YS Jagan Mohan Reddy government since June, speculation has been mounting on the fate of the proposed city on the banks of river Krishna as well as the benefits to 33,000 farmers who have given land for the purpose.
The lull as signs of the mega project being put on the backburner — like fall in real estate prices and worry of farmers — as Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy started unveiling his new vision for AP, was shattered last week by the remarks made by Botsa Satyanarayana, the State Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development. Known to court controversy, Satyanarayana set the ball rolling with his comment that Amaravati, being in a flood-prone area, was unsuitable, as construction cost would be doubled or even trebled.
Though his statement, made when the State was grappling with floods in several areas, drew widespread condemnation, he remained adamant and even reiterated his stand in Vizianagaram, his home town, on Sunday.
A fresh controversy has also erupted with the industrialist and the Rajya Sabha member of the BJP, TG Venkatesh, claiming that not just one, but there would be four capitals in the new scheme of thinking under Jagan Mohan Reddy.
What further adds to the confusion are different opinions being voiced in the ruling YSR Congress Party and some of the opposition parties, especially the BJP, over the issue.
Amidst the din, the CM has maintained a steady silence, fuelling further speculation. During the run up to the April election and in the manifesto, the opposition to Amaravati as capital was clear and Jagan had alleged corruption by Naidu and the team in the project.
Satyanarayana’s remarks attracted sharp criticism from the Telugu Desam, the Congress, the BJP, the Janasena and the Leftists. The State BJP president, K Lakshminarayana, even warned the State government of an agitation if it undertakes any move to shift the capital from Amaravati.
But some of his own party leaders are adding to the confusion.
Hype and promises
In the past few years, after much hype and promise of the best capital city, Naidu ended up erecting structures for a State Assembly and Secretariat with heavy investments that only drew more criticism.
His drubbing in the elections only vindicated the people’s disappointment with the project, opposition YSR Congress feels.
Venkatesh, who recently defected to the BJP from the TDP, shocked everyone on Sunday by issuing a statement in Kurnool that the Jagan Mohan Reddy government was, in fact, contemplating setting up not one capital, but four. The Chief Minister had apprised the Central leadership of the BJP about his proposal, he claimed.
However, on Monday, Lakshminarayana said it was only the personal opinion of Venkatesh. The party was committed to building the capital at Amaravati.
Meanwhile, the farmers, who gave up 33,000 acres land for Amaravati project, are meeting political leaders to exert pressure on the government to give up the shifting proposal. Janasena President and cine star Pawan Kalyan, BJP leaders and CPI leaders are scheduled to tour the area to reassure the farmers later this week.
Farmers are worried about the uncertainty because under a land pooling arrangement, the State Government is to pay them a monthly income for 10 years, and allot a developed plot for every acre of land they have given up.