“Here I am, to invite you to Visakhapatnam, which is going to be our capital,” Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy told investors, industrialists, and envoys of several countries while welcoming them to the port city to attend a two-day Global Investors’ Summit from 3 March.
Jagan’s assertion came as surprise — though he has been pressing for three capitals — since the matter is before the Supreme Court. The court, however, could not take up the case on Tuesday, 31 January.
However, the chief minister appeared confident.
“I myself will also be shifting over to Visakhapatnam in the months to come,” he told the International Diplomats Alliance Meet in New Delhi on Tuesday. He did not provide any further details or an exact timeframe.
Incidentally, Jagan’s statement came amidst reports that he would be shifting his office to Visakhapatnam, The City of Destiny, and start working from there from Ugadi, the Telugu New Year, on 23 March.
He currently operates from his Camp Office-cum-Residence at Tadepalle in Guntur.
Ugadi, says sources
Highly placed sources in the government told South First that initially the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) would be shifted to Visakhapatnam. It would start functioning there from Ugadi onwards.
“Initially, the CMO and the support staff will shift to Visakhapatnam and start functioning from there. A few HoD (head of the department) offices, with which the CMO needs regular interaction, may also shift there. The shifting of the Secretariat might take some time. Surely, the CMO is moving in the next few months,” a top source said.
Though Cabinet ministers Botcha Satyanarayana and Gudivada Amarnath, both from the Vizag region, have been vocal for a few months about Jagan shifting office to the port city, their statements only gained credibility after the chief minister’s assertion on Tuesday.
An office with a view
It is learnt that the CMO will function from one of the blocks being constructed for resorts by the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) on the Rushikonda hillock overlooking the Bay of Bengal.
The construction activity on Rushikonda has been embroiled in a controversy with environmentalists raising several red flags, alleging environmental and ecological destruction. It delayed the work.
If the office space is not available on Rushikonda hill on time, one of the guest houses will temporarily host the CMO.
“Even during Visakha Garjana in November, our government reiterated that Visakhapatnam will be made the executive capital at any cost. There is no shortage of space in Visakhapatnam to house government offices,” said TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy, who is also Jagan’s uncle and YSRCP’s Vizag regional coordinator.
“Vacant space in Madhurawada IT SEZ and other government guest houses will be utilised for government offices and accommodating the staff,” he pointed out.
“We will try to resolve all legal hurdles and issues related to the three capitals,” he added.
The YSRCP is planning to have the executive capital at Visakhapatnam, judicial capital at Kurnool, and legislative capital at Amaravati.
Contempt of court?
However, Jagan’s assertion in New Delhi triggered a debate since the three capitals issue is before the Supreme Court. TDP leaders said the announcement amounted to contempt of court.
“How can he make such a statement about Vizag as executive capital when the issue is in the courts and the high court has ruled that Amaravati is the only capital of the state? It’s a definite contempt of court,” TDP senior leader and AP legislature’s Public Accounts Committee chairman, Payyavula Keshav, opined.
“I suspect Jagan’s statement is only a diversionary tactic to divert public attention from the ongoing probe by the CBI into his uncle YS Viveka’s murder case. The CBI has recently intensified its probe and also questioned YSRCP’s Kadapa MP YS Avinash Reddy,” he pointed out.
BJP leader and former minister Kanna Lakshmi Narayana too echoed similar thoughts.
ఢిల్లీలో గ్లోబల్ ఇన్వెస్టర్ల సదస్సులో జగన్మోహన్ రెడ్డి గారు రాష్ట్ర రాజధాని పట్ల చేసిన వ్యాఖ్యలు ఖండిస్తున్నాను.
రాజధాని అంశం సుప్రీంకోర్టులో ఉండగా ముఖ్యమంత్రి ఈ విధంగా ప్రకటన చేయడం హాస్యాస్పదం.
“అమరావతి మన రాష్ట్ర రాజధానిగా ఉండాలనే ప్రజల ఆకాంక్షే నెరవేరుతుంది.”
— Kanna Lakshmi Narayana (@klnbjp) January 31, 2023
However, the ruling party leaders held a different view.
“There is no contempt of court. He said he will be shifting to Visakhapatnam. No one can stop a chief minister from working from a place of his choice,” a top YSRCP leader told South First.
“It is his prerogative. He will be shortly shifting to Visakhapatnam. Since it is the government’s policy decision to have one of the three capitals in Visakhapatnam, he said the city will be the capital, which means he is hopeful of a favourable verdict in the Supreme Court,” he added.
SC could not take up the hearing
The YSRCP government approached the Supreme Court on 17 September, six months after the High Court of Andhra Pradesh had struck down the three-capitals plan.
The government filed a Special Leave Petition in the apex court challenging the high court’s order, which upheld Amaravati as the sole capital of Andhra Pradesh. The petition claimed the order undermined the government’s legislative competence to change the state’s capital.
In the petition, the government said that if a state, reorganised in pursuance of Central legislation under Articles 3 and 4 of the Constitution, was held to be without the power to reorganise its capital, it would be against the federal structure of the Constitution.
The petition came up for hearing before a Supreme Court bench of Justices KM Joseph and BV Nagarathna on 28 November.
The two-judge bench stayed the high court order — issued on 3 March, 2022 — directing the state government to develop Amaravati as the capital city within six months.
The bench also said it would examine the legal questions involved in the matter — including the legislative competence of the state government to decide on its capitals — at its next hearing, scheduled for 31 January 2023.
However, due to the non-availability of Justice KM Joseph, as he heads a Constitutional bench, the apex court could not take up the case on Tuesday.
The Amaravati farmers
Earlier, during the TDP regime, the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region Development Authority (APCRDA) began acquiring 33,000 acres of arable land from the farmers of 29 villages.
The land was acquired based on an agreement with the farmers that they would be allotted residential and commercial plots in the developed capital.
The Amaravati farmers, who have been opposing the government’s three-capitals proposal halted their Maha Padayatra 2.0 on 22 October citing police excesses. There are also no signs of them resuming the yatra.
The farmers, who are backed by the Opposition TDP, took out the yatra on 12 September demanding the government to make Amaravati the sole capital of Andhra Pradesh.