Hyderabad’s last day as ‘common capital’: Sorry state of Andhra Pradesh

It was unheard of for a new state carved out of an old one to get the old capital, but Telangana — not Andhra Pradesh — got Hyderabad.

ByN Venugopal

Published Jun 01, 2024 | 7:56 PMUpdatedJun 02, 2024 | 2:00 PM

File photo of Hyderabad.

The last thread that connects the people of Andhra Pradesh with Hyderabad, legally, comes to an end on 2 June, as the provision to consider the city as common capital had only a 10-year time period.

The people-to-people bonds spanning historical, emotional, financial, political and cultural moorings may remain and prosper.

However, the legal provision specifically said Hyderabad would cease to be the “common capital” after the expiry of the period.

Related: AP stares at uncertainty as Hyderabad set to cease to be joint capital

The bifurcation

This 2 June marks the decennial anniversary of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014, which split the hitherto existing Andhra Pradesh state into two: Telangana and residual Andhra Pradesh.

Section 5 of the Act said:

“(1) On and from the appointed day, Hyderabad in the existing State of Andhra Pradesh, shall be the common capital of the State of Telangana and the State of Andhra Pradesh for such period not exceeding ten years. (2) After expiry of the period referred to in sub-section (1), Hyderabad shall be the capital of the State of Telangana and there shall be a new capital for the State of Andhra Pradesh. Explanation.–– In this Part, the common capital includes the existing area notified as the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation under the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act, 1955”.

The legislation was the culmination of at least four decades of the people’s demand and over 13 years of militant struggles on the streets as well as lobbying in the corridors of power. And it had a momentous history.

The acrimonious debate — including the usage of pepper spray in Parliament by a stakeholder member from Andhra Pradesh that preceded and followed the passage of the legislation — created a record of sorts.

The act was passed in the Lok Sabha on 18 February, 2014, followed by the Rajya Sabha on 20 February.

It received the Presidential assent and was published in the Gazette on 1 March. The act came into force on 2 June, the appointed day.

However, though it was successful in bifurcating the state, the issues it left unresolved or ambiguous remain so even after 10 years.

Related: Harish Rao sees ‘conspiracy’ by BJP-Cong to extend Hyd joint capital status by 10 years

The law

The Act contained 108 sections in 12 parts, besides 13 schedules.

There have been objections and apprehensions on some of the sections and schedules from both sides.

However, none of the objections and proposed amendments from both sides was considered and the bill, as finalised by the Union Cabinet on 7 Febraury, 2014, was passed in toto.

There was an apprehension among the people of Andhra Pradesh as well as the region’s political class that they received a short shrift and had to compromise on a number of crucial issues. But none of the apprehensions was addressed.

On the other hand, though the Act apparently satisfied the long-pending demand of the people of Telangana, it ultimately left many loopholes and Telangana’s political class was forced to accept it in the name of getting their larger demand.

In the last 10 years, the Andhra Pradesh government initiated certain actions with regard to its own capital, and established its own high court instead of the common high court.

In the meanwhile, the Union government also took some initiatives to do away with the common Governor and special powers to the Governor as envisaged in the act.

It also fulfilled some — if not all — promises like special economic measures and access to higher education, as given in the act.

However, some contentious issues remain unresolved on the appointed day or 10 years later.

They include Hyderabad as common capital for 10 years, the Polavaram Irrigation Project on the Godavari, the apportionment of assets and liabilities, and the division of companies, corporations and institutions listed in the ninth and tenth schedules.

Also Read: Congress, BRS in war of words over Telangana anthem

The issue of Hyderabad

In all that, Hyderabad is an interesting issue. In fact, that was a strange, unheard-of situation with regard to the capital of the residual state, as the old capital went to the newly-created state.

Starting from what was Madras in 1953 to erstwhile Bombay in 1960 to Bhopal, and Patna and Lucknow in 2000, all the capitals remained in the residual states, while the newly-created states had to develop their own capitals.

However, in the case of Hyderabad, it remained in the middle of the newly-created Telangana, and the residual Andhra Pradesh state had to create its new capital.

Though there was a suggestion to make it a common capital (as well as a Union Territory) like Chandigarh, there was no geographical contiguity like Chandigarh here.

Also, some animosity developed between the two states, especially with the people of Andhra Pradesh using Hyderabad as their capital and travelling at least 200 km in another state to reach it, which was not deemed a good idea.

When the bifurcation of the erstwhile Madras state was done to create Andhra Pradesh in 1953, a controversy arose as Madras was claimed as a Telugu city and angry Tamil leaders threatened Andhra leaders to leave immediately, saying they would not be allowed to use Madras even for a single day.

Given that history, pronouncing Hyderabad as common capital for 10 years — even with the “not exceeding” rider — became a bone of contention.

Even while mentioning Hyderabad as common capital for a period not exceeding 10 years, the Union government, through the Ministry of Home Affairs, appointed an expert committee to study the alternatives for a new capital for Andhra Pradesh, under the chairmanship of senior bureaucrat KC Sivaramakrishnan.

The committee submitted its report to the government by 31 August, 2014.

Thus, not waiting and continuing in the “common capital” even for a year, let alone 10 years, the new chief minister of Andhra Pradesh N Chandrababu Naidu expressed his desire to develop a new capital, though not strictly following the recommendations of the expert committee.

He wanted to develop the Vijayawada-Guntur-Tenali circuit, with Amaravati as the nucleus and the new capital.

Also Read: Revanth Reddy sees an opportunity to efface KCR from Telangana movement

A capital chaos

On 22 October, 2015, the foundation stone was laid for the new riverfront capital by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

By March 2017, the Andhra Pradesh legislature and a number of government departments started functioning from the new capital.

However, the life of the new capital of Andhra Pradesh was not smooth with the change of government from Naidu to YS Jagan Mohan Reddy after the May 2019 elections.

The new chief minister criticised the single-capital concept and announced that he wanted to decentralise the capital.

He proposed Amaravati as the legislative capital, Visakhapatnam as the executive capital, and Kurnool as the judicial capital.

The three-capital formula went into litigation and in March 2022 the Andhra Pradesh High Court struck down the policy.

An appeal against the ruling is still pending in the Supreme Court.

Thus, on the 10th anniversary of the appointed day, and on the expiry day of the 10-year duration of common capital, Andhra Pradesh finds itself in a sorry state with the dubious distinction of not having a new capital and losing a provision to use a legacy capital.