Seemandhra’s concerns

Print edition : June 13, 2014

DURING one of his campaigns in Visakhapatnam, YSR Congress Party chief Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy said: “Give us all the 25 Lok Sabha seats [in Seemandhra]. We can then demand and command the Centre to allocate more funds for [creation of the new] capital and for development of the residual Andhra Pradesh.” Those assembled at the rally nodded their heads in approval and shouted “yes, we will”.

Telugu Desam Party president N. Chandrababu Naidu also spoke about the need for large funds to build a new capital but at the same time he stressed the importance of having a friendly party in power at the Centre, apparently referring to his decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in order to get more funds for building the new capital and rebuilding a region “that was left to fend for itself by the Congress”.

Their approaches were different but both of them sought to highlight the fact that building a State capital was their primary concern and that the residual State would have to seek the Centre’s help to resolve other issues. Much of the resistance in Andhra and Rayalaseema regions to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh was because of the fear of the loss of Hyderabad and, as a consequence, access to decent employment and education.

So fierce was the battle to retain Hyderabad that politicians of the two regions, cutting across party lines, were agreeable to the formation of Telangana as long as the 423-year-old city remained a permanent joint capital. Union Ministers from the State, members of Parliament and legislators lobbied hard to make Hyderabad at least a Union Territory.

Political leaders have been making all sorts of claims about the quantum of funds that would be required to build the new capital even as the K. Sivaramakrishnan Committee, constituted by the Centre, has been visiting several cities in Seemandhra to elicit people’s views on the location of the new capital. Soon after the Congress Working Committee decided on July 30, 2013, to form a separate Telangana State, Chandrababu Naidu estimated that a whopping Rs.4 lakh crore would be required to build a new capital city for Seemandhra.

There is no official estimate yet on how much funds would be required for building a new capital, but Chandrababu Naidu, when he takes over as the Chief Minister of the successor State, would have to work hard to obtain substantial Central assistance. One of the reasons for people electing the TDP to power was their hope that his track record of developing Hyderabad into a hi-tech city would prove useful in building a new capital.

There are other equally challenging issues to be taken up with the Centre. The outgoing Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, had declared special category status to Seemandhra for five years in order to put the State’s finances on a firm footing. But political leaders have demanded that this period be extended to 10 years.

The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2014, provides for a special development package for the four Rayalaseema and three north coastal Andhra districts these two areas—on the lines of Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi Special Plan in Odisha—and for appropriate fiscal measures, including offer of tax incentives to promote industrialisation and economic growth.

Manmohan Singh gave an assurance in Parliament that the resource gap that could arise in the successor State in the first year after bifurcation would be compensated in the regular Union Budget 2014-15. Another major announcement was to accord national status to the Polavaram project, the multi-purpose irrigation project across the Godavari. This would entail 90 per cent of Central assistance to ensure that rehabilitation and resettlement are smooth.

Chandrababu Naidu has his task cut out in pursuing all these issues with the Centre. He would also have to ensure that the Centre keeps its promise of setting up a Central University, an Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in the residual State.

Not to be left behind, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president, K. Chandrasekhar Rao, who is all set to take over as the first Chief Minister of Telangana, has been demanding a special status for Telangana, a national project status for the Pranahita-Chevella lift irrigation project and initiation of new power projects to fill the demand-supply gap in the region.

His argument is that barring Hyderabad and the adjoining Ranga Reddy district, the eight districts of Telangana were backward as per the norms stipulated by the Planning Commission. The Centre should not be seen as favouring one State, he said.

Chandrasekhar Rao is also not happy with the power vested in the Governor to oversee law and order in Hyderabad. He may take up this issue as well with the Centre.

K. Venkateshwarlu

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