The Andhra Pradesh government’s move to repeal the controversial AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, has raised even more questions on why the state needed three capitals in the first place. Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy made the abrupt announcement on 22 November while the Andhra Pradesh Assembly okayed a bill to repeal the act intended to establish three capitals.
The Tughlaq-like AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Act, 2020, would have allowed the state to have three capitals Amaravati, Vishakhapatnam and Kurnool. Muhammad bin Tughlaq is recalled by history books as an “inhuman eccentric” with bizarre character by the accounts of visitors during his rule, he is said to have ordered the massacre of all the inhabitants of the Hindu city of Kannauj. He is known also for wild policy swings on moving the capital city of his kingdom from Delhi to Daulatabad in 1327 and then bringing it back to Delhi in 1335 after the previous year’s Mabar and Bengal rebellions.
The Andhra Pradesh act, which had been passed last year, focuses on decentralisation of the state. The act was passed alongside the repeal of an act passed by the previous Telugu Desam Party regime to build a grand capital at Amaravati. Reddy had argued that it made more sense to decentralise than to neglect other regions and focus on the development of one single capital. His predecessor and political rival N Chandrababu Naidu had devised the idea of a state-of-the-art capital at Amaravati.
Reddy had said categorically that his government would come up with a “better and comprehensive” legislation, indicating he has not dropped the three capitals move altogether.
Effectively, the old Capital Region Development Act, 2014, will come into force now, which means Amaravati will be the working capital until a new decision is taken. Last year, the then governor, Biswa Bhusan Harichandan, had signed two bills — the Andhra Pradesh decentralisation and inclusive development of all regions bill, 2020, and the AP capital region development authority (repeal) bill, 2020, that involved setting up executive, legislative and judicial capitals at Vishakhapatnam, Amaravati and Kurnool.
The act ran into controversy when thousands of farmers, who gave up over 34,000 ac of fertile land for setting up the state capital in Amaravati, challenged the two laws in the high court. More than 100 petitions were filed by the farmers in this regard. Many other petitions regarding logistical issues in coordination between the three capitals and misuse of taxpayers’ money came up. Some others argued that it would be a burden on the exchequer to build two more capitals as a significant amount of public funds had already been spent on the infrastructure to make Amaravati the capital city.