Amaravati: Andhra Pradesh chief minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu’s much-touted mega project, a new capital city in Amaravati in the adjacent district of Vijayawada, demonstrates a larger problem of an inherent mismatch — grand vision but poor execution —something that he is battling in the larger administrative issues in this assembly and
elections in Andhra Pradesh.
Conceived and projected as a Rs 50,000 crore “21st century modern capital project”, the venture remains mostly incomplete across thousands of acres of agricultural land that the TDP government had acquired soon after Naidu formed the government in 2014 with Narendra Modi as his ally at the Centre.
While the state secretariat is currently functioning from a temporary structure, most of the area is a jungle of construction with half finished projects, even though Naidu had showcased it as his vision city when he got the prime minister to lay the foundation stone of the capital way back in October 2015.
From being the example of a master project, the Amaravati Capital Project has become a centre of political slugfest in this election season.
Naidu’s rival Jaganmohan Reddy-led YSRCP has projected the project as the grand example of Naidu’s “contracts and land scams” and has vowed to investigate it if he forms the next government. “While the farmers here got money for their land, we don’t think we received what we should have,” said Gopala Reddy, a farmer who lives in the vicinity of the project.
Naidu’s party is typically trying to corner the rivals on two counts. First, the CM and his party argue that if Jagan becomes the CM, the capital project will be either halted or shifted to some other place, denying all-round development for the region.
Second, Naidu is trying to blame the Centre and the Telangana government by arguing that both didn’t deliver on the promised compensatory funds after Andhra lost the capital claim on Hyderabad after bifurcation.
“As long as Naidu is CM, we are sure of this project coming up, but we don’t know what will happen if TDP is voted out. Yet, the delivery record on capital city is very slow,” said Sriraj, an I-T professional who claims to be politically neutral. CM Naidu, in a way, is battling a charge similar to what he had faced in 2004 — that he is a man “for the cities who neglects the rural areas’, which has prompted him to incorporate a slew of welfare schemes in the TDP manifesto.
Yet the man who won two consecutive polls during his earlier stint as the CM is not a quitter and is doing everything he can to be ahead in the poll race — he is trying to whip up “Andhra pride” by projecting himself as a victim of the Modi government though he was a BJP ally for three years, branding Jagan as “inexperienced and corrupt” and “in league” with “bifurcation villain KCR” and is hoping Pawan Kalya’s Jana Sena Party will divide the Kapu and the youth to muddle YSRCP’s poll arithmetic, even while projecting himself as a key player in national opposition politics.
While his failure to get special category status for Andhra has affected his prospects, the twin issues — farmers and unemployment — are his biggest incumbency burden.
The committees he had conceived for panchayat-level social schemes have thrown up questions on TDP’s interferences, making his regime look more controversial.
The fact that TDP is estranged by its 2014 allies — BJP and Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena — means Naidu’s reach has also shrunk. As he is widely projected to be on the backfoot this time around, Naidu’s TDP is putting up a dogged defence by asking people to choose between “an experienced” administrator and a “rookie” politician, even as Jagan is trying to benefit from the anti-incumbency sentiment.