HYDERABAD: The Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy-led YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want to spend huge sums of public money on Amaravati, as it was neither possible nor economically viable. The capital city project as conceived and launched by the previous Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP government has been put on hold for now.

The Amaravati city project has received investment proposals from all over the country as well as some foreign countries like Singapore. However, all the ongoing works were stopped since 30 May, when Jagan took over as Chief Minister.

This clarification came from Andhra Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath Reddy while also attacking former Chief Minister and TDP president Naidu who is undertaking a tour of Amaravati. Naidu’s highly publicised tour in the limits of the capital city region turned into a show of muscle power between the ruling and Opposition parties.

While TDP cadres were mobilised in large numbers to drum up support to Naidu who demanded that the Jagan government implement the project Amaravati at a cost of around Rs 1.10 lakh crore over an area of around 33,000 acres, the ruling YSR Congress backed farmers and others protested against the former Chief Minister’s “politicization” of the issue.

Naidu was greeted with throwing of chappals and stone-pelting at some places and the police arrested two persons in this regard. TDP supporters, on the other hand, welcomed him with flowers and supportive slogans and demanded that “the capital city should not be killed”. Naidu lent melodrama by kissing the place where Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for Amaravati on 22 October 2015.

Naidu’s visit came in the wake of withdrawal of a Singapore-led consortium from a start up city project in the capital city limits over an area of 1,600 acres last month. Some financial institutions, including the World Bank and other international agencies, have withdrawn from the projects underway in Amaravati. Earlier this month, Jana Sena leader Pawan Kalyan, too, undertook a tour in this area.

More than political gesturing between the two parties–YSR Congress and TDP–the issue of Amaravati has turned into a clash of two different schools of thought. While Naidu argues for a world-class capital city which can generate a colossus of an economy in future, Jagan is of the view that a financially weak state like Andhra Pradesh doesn’t need a mega city which cripples state finances.

As if to support his view point, Chief Minister Jagan last week announced that his government intends to promote three concept cities around Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and Anantapur. The first one is from north-coastal Andhra, while the rest are from backward Rayala Seema region. As already, the present capital is located in coastal Andhra, all the regions would be taken care through this model.

These concept cities would be developed in a radius of 10 km and all permissions to industries and other ventures would be cleared through a single-window mechanism, according to a release issued by the Chief Minister’s office on 20 November. Instead of wooing investments in and around Amaravati, the Jagan government would invite private and public investments into these concept cities.

During his tour of Amaravati, Naidu trained his guns against Jagan for stalling the Amaravati city project just because it was promoted by his political rival. “He is destroying Amaravati just because he doesn’t like me to take credit. However, the capital city is bigger than any individual and it is meant for future generations. This city can make Andhra Pradesh number 1 in India by 2030-35,” Naidu claimed.

Naidu reminded the crowds that gathered at his road-side meetings of how his party MPs had fought with the Centre recently and got back Amaravati on the map of India. The Survey of India in its map issued on 2 November hasn’t mentioned any capital for Andhra Pradesh. After intervention from TDP MPs in Parliament, the Centre has revised the map with Amaravati.

Finance Minister Rajendranath gave a rebuttal to Naidu later in the day, saying that Amaravati was just a Utopian idea and was not practicable. “How can Naidu plan a capital city with an outlay of Rs 1.10 lakh crore and invite tenders for works worth Rs 52,000 crore? After all, the previous TDP government has just spent around Rs 5,000 crore in the last five years,” Rajendranath said.

Rajendranath pointed out that of the Rs 5,000 crore spent by the Naidu government, Rs 1,777 croe was spent from the government side—Rs 1,500 crore from the Centre and Rs 277 crore from the Andhra Pradesh government side, while the rest was raised from the banks and other lenders at high interest rates. “How can anyone imagine building a city of Rs 1 lakh croe by spending just Rs 277 crore?” asked the minister.

Rajendranath alleged that there were many financial irregularities in the works executed by the Naidu government. “Money was wasted like anything. They (Naidu regime) approved tenders costing around Rs 46 crore per every km of road and Rs 6,995 per every sq ft of apartments constructed in Amaravati limits. Is this not misappropriation of public money?” asked the AP minister.

The minister, close confidant of Chief Minister Jagan, clarified that the concept of a huge capital was an outdated idea and now there was no need of any huge capital city with centralised administration and business. “We want to de-centralise the administration and industries by distributing them among all regions so that people from all areas would have equal access to them,” Rajendranath said.

 

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