There had been speculations as to where would be the new Capital of Andhra Pradesh, the residual State after the bifurcation of the undivided Andhra Pradesh. The division was to carve out a new State called Telengana for which there had been violent agitations on and off for several decades. Hyderabad, which was the Capital of the undivided State, has gone to Telengana, although it will continue to be the Capital for both the States for up to ten years by which time AP is expected to build its own Capital.
There were several options being discussed such as Vizag, Guntur and Vijayawada to locate the Capital for Andhra Pradesh and finally the decision has gone in favour of Vijayawada, putting an end to all suspense. The announcement to the effect was made by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu on 4 September 2014 in the State Assembly. Still there are some doubts as to what the exact location of the new Capital would be.
Exact location still undecided
Once it was announced that it will be in Vijayawada region, some are of the opinion that the new Capital could be built somewhere about Mangalagiri, 15 km away from Vijayawada city, lying between Guntur and Vijayawada, which are located in the vicinity of river Krishna. There is also a possibility that the new Capital could be set up near Nuzvid, 40 km from the city in the opposite direction, off Eluru. The area is well-known for its mangoes. However, it may be noted that Naidu had broadly indicated that the area will be ‘Vijayawada-Guntur region.’
From the point of view of division the various dues and assets have been allotted to the two States as is the case with resources such as water and power. However, the two States are still dividing their administrative human resources. The decision to make Vijayawada the State Capital was taken by the AP Cabinet, which consists of 18 members, on the first day of September. One feels that having Vijayawada as the Capital would give AP some convenience from an administrative point of view. It would also help the economy of the region prosper and that, in turn, would be a good thing for the State as a whole.
Naidu has also pointed out, and rightly so, that the early identification of Vijayawada as the State’s Capital would allow it to develop from the point of view of social and cultural well-being. This would also mean that a significant amount of the State’s water resources (almost 20 thousand million cubic feet) would have to be diverted for the development of Vijayawada.
Land acquisition a tricky issue
The Andhra CM has planned that Guntur and Vijayawada, the twin cities located on either side of Krishna river will be developed as metro cities. This would also ensure that they draw a fair bit of investment that helps in their ultimate growth and it can have a social life that is comparable to cities such as Hyderabad, for example. The city has a population in excess of 2 million, which implies it will have plenty of human resource. The city also boasts of some decent connectivity.
It is connected by the National Highway 16, has a railway station and Gannavaram airport. It is regarded as the entrance way to southern India. Naidu has stated that he would like to develop the airport in Vijayawada to an international one and that too, in the shortest time possible. He has also set up a Cabinet subcommittee whose main responsibility would be to get land that can be used for the purpose of infrastructural development. As part of this farmers will be convinced of the need to let go of land that can be used for the purpose.
Land acquisition, especially of one used for agricultural purposes, is always a contentious issue and has led to several changes of government at the State level. The example of West Bengal springs to mind. After the incidents of Singur and Nandigram, the CPM government that had ruled the State for 34 years took a tumble in the elections of 2011. While it was not the sole issue, it was certainly a major one that contributed to this downfall. A few years back there was much furore in Uttar Pradesh over a similar issue. So, this is one area where the State Government needs to tread cautiously.
Vizag had all infrastructure in place
Vizag, one feels, could have been the ideal choice. It already has a proper infrastructure in place, has an international airport, fantastic system of roads and railway. Besides, it also has 4 universities that not many cities in India may boast of. The city also has several other factors in its favour. It has a port, something that Kolkata and Mumbai have as well, steel plants, shipping yards and several divisional offices of prominent organizations such as the railways.
Considering these factors it is rather hard to fathom why Vijayawada, a primarily agricultural and educational area, was chosen to be the Capital. Perhaps the State Government was excited by the prospect of developing a new city from almost the scratch. Only time will tell if the decision was a well thought out one or not.