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Explained: Why the Andhra Pradesh government repealed laws on 3 capitals

As part of the earlier plan, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy had promised to build three capitals — Amaravati as Legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the Executive capital, and Kurnool as the Judicial capital.

The Andhra Pradesh Assembly unanimously passed a Bill on Monday to repeal two laws that were cleared last year as part of the YSRCP government’s contentious move to set up three different state capitals instead of proceeding with the previous TDP regime’s plan to develop the current capital of Amaravati.

Of them, one of the laws that were repealed was the The Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, passed in January 2020 to make way for three capitals for the state. Bugganna Rajendranath Reddy, the Minister for Finance, Planning, and Legislative Affairs, introduced the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Repeal Bill, 2021, which was passed unanimously through a voice vote.

So, what is the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, that was repealed?

After the YSR Congress Party came to power in 2019, it had decided to reverse the previous government’s decision to have an ambitious world-class capital city at Amaravati, which is located between Vijayawada and Guntur. The TDP government, through a land-pooling scheme, had acquired 33,000 acres of agricultural land from 29 villages and promised to return developed plots in return, apart from monetary compensation.

TDP, while moving its seat of power from Hyderabad to Amaravati, had built an interim government complex, a temporary High Court building, a permanent Legislative complex, and even bungalows and apartments for lawmakers, judges, and officers.

However, the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government dropped the project and decided to go ahead with decentralization. In 2020, it repealed the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2020, and passed the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020. This way, Amaravati was to be the Legislative capital, Visakhapatnam the Executive capital, and Kurnool the Judicial capital.

Why did the government repeal the 3 capitals Act?

Over a hundred petitions challenging the government’s move have been filed before the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Several of these petitions were backed by the opposition TDP. Farmers of Amaravati, who let the government acquire their lands, wanted them to stick to the previous plan and build a world-class capital city in the same location. The court had recently started hearing the petitions. On Monday, Advocate General Subrahmanyam Sriram informed the High Court of the government’s decision in an affidavit. He told the Court that the government will repeal the Act.

Explaining the move, the Chief Minister promised to introduce a “better” and more “comprehensive” Bill after plugging the loopholes in the previous one. He blamed the TDP government for choosing Amaravati as the capital as it lacked basic infrastructures, such as roads and drainage systems. He pointed out that Rs 1 lakh crore was required to build just that, which may escalate to Rs 5 or 6 lakh crore in 10 years.

Why will he bring another Bill in place of the present one?

Jagan said his government had introduced the 3 capitals bill to ensure equitable and balanced development of the state, considering the aspirations of people. He added that the opposition party had been spreading misconceptions and misleading information, and also creating legal hurdles in the process. He felt there is a need to exhaustively explain to the people about the government’s intentions and also make amendments to plug the loopholes of the existing Bill. “The Act was being withdrawn in the larger public interest,” he said.

Will Andhra Pradesh have only one capital now?

It is not clear if the government will stick to Amaravati as the sole capital. Throughout his address, the Chief Minister stressed on the need for decentralization for equitable development of all regions. The CM also did not set any deadline for the introduction of the new Bill.

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How did other parties react to the decision?

Former CM and TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu’s son and TDP’s national general secretary Nara Lokesh blamed the government for spreading “lies” and “half-truths” and said that the previous government had taken all care to develop Amaravati as the capital for equitable justice and development of all regions.

While slamming Jagan for playing “mind games” with the people of the state and acting without a sense of commitment or responsibility, he added that the CM, before the 2019 elections, had promised to develop Amaravati. “Unfortunately, he was not able to spell out a clear stance on his plan for the state capital and the overall development of the state,” he Lokesh stated.

The BJP, on the other hand, said that the government decided to repeal the Act fearing an adverse order from the High Court. Somu Veerraju, president of BJP’s AP unit, said that he has asked the CM to discuss with all political parties and seek public opinion before taking any decision on decentralization.

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