The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly late on Monday night passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 that intended to give shape to state government's plan of having three capitals executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial in Kurnool.
The amendments to the Bill proposed by the opposition Telugu Desam Party were rejected by the House. The Bill will be moved in the Legislative Council on Tuesday but the government may face an uphill task to see it through as the ruling YSR Congress is having just nine members in the 58-member Upper House.
Towards the fag end of the day's proceedings, 17 MLAs of the TDP were suspended from the House for a day as they disrupted the Chief Minister's address. Winding up a nearly 12-hour acrimonious debate on the Bill, Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy said by distributing the capital functions and focusing on decentralisation, his government was "undoing the wrongs and historic blunders" committed by the previous regimes since the formation of erstwhile Andhra state in 1953. "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," the Chief Minister asserted.
Listing out his government’s priorities related to welfare and development, the Chief Minister maintained that it was not in a position to spend lakhs of crores of rupees on building a city (Amaravati). "The previous chief minister, Chandrababu Naidu, created only Bhramaravati (illusionary city) in the name of Amaravati. He turned the capital city into a real-estate venture to benefit only a chosen few," Jagan lashed out. "I cannot fool people by showing them only graphics," he remarked.
He also debunked Chandrababu's claim that Amaravati was a self-financing project. Earlier, the Leader of Opposition said he was "pleading with folded hands" not to change the state capital from Amaravati to Visakhapatnam. "Though Jagan is much younger to me, I am pleading with folded hands not to relocate the capital. Amaravati is intended for the future of the next generations," Chandrababu said. At one point during the debate, Speaker Tammineni Sitaram remarked, in reaction to the TDP members’ comments, that it was not a change of capital but only decentralisation.
"The Legislative Capital will remain here (Amaravati) only," he noted. Several ministers and ruling party MLAs, who spoke on the Bill, hit out strongly at the former Chief Minister, accusing him of indulging in a scandal in the name of building the state capital.
The TDP legislators, on the other hand, tried to defend the Amaravati project and said thousands of farmers gave up their fertile agricultural lands for it. "You can't demean the sacrifice of the farmers," they said. The lone member of Jana Sena Rapaka Varaprasad too supported the government on the three capitals, violating the party stand.
Moving the Bill on the first day of the extended winter session, Finance and Legislative Affairs Minister Buggana Rajendranath said the government decided to enact a new legislation for decentralisation and inclusive development of all regions in the state for ensuring "balanced and inclusive growth" of AP.
"Regional imbalances, absence of equitable growth have caused an acute sense of deprivation among various sections of the state population, leading to disturbances. The logical solution would be to lay emphasis on distributed development and decentralised administration to ensure fruits of socio-economic progress are enjoyed equally by people of various regions," the minister said, quoting the recommendations of the high-powered committee of ministers and bureaucrats, which formed the basis of the new legislation.
The AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020, also provides for dividing the state into various zones and establishing zonal planning and development boards. The village and (municipal) ward secretariats system that the government brought in in October last year now gets statutory backing as it has been made part of the new Bill. The TDP members raised objection to the introduction of the Bill and stormed the Speaker’s podium.
Amid the din, the government also moved another Bill to repeal the AP Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014. The government said it intended to constitute a new Amaravati Metropolitan Region Development Area under the provisions of AP Metropolitan Region and Urban Development Authorities Act, 2016.
The CRDA Act was enacted on December 22, 2014 for the development of the state capital post-bifurcation with a specific area demarcated as the capital region. Now that the YSR Congress government decided to have three capitals for the state, the CRDA Act is proposed to be repealed. The CRDA (Repeal) Bill has also been passed late in the night.
Earlier in the day, the Cabinet met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and cleared the draft Bills. The Cabinet also approved the recommendations of the HPC on the capitals issue. But the government could face hurdles in getting the Bills cleared in the Legislative Council, which sits from Tuesday, as the ruling party does not have a majority there.