Adding further uncertainty to the fate of Andhra's upcoming capital city Amaravati, chief minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy yesterday invoked the concept of decentralisation put forth by the Sivaramakrishnan Committee in a clear political move to drum up popular support around his government's actions in this matter going forward.
His words on the closing day of the state assembly sessions that the three regions - Andhra, North Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema of the state could have three capitals, each carved out for the three arms of the state, namely, legislature, executive and judiciary turned the whole issue into sensitive political debate and pushed the opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has been championing the cause of Amaravati, into a defensive position.
Even though the state government achieved little head way on any of the important matters pertaining to the development of the state in the past six months, including the unresolved renewable energy PPAs issue, chief minister Reddy's attempt to rewrite the previous government's decisions has kept the state in constant churning.
On the question of Amaravati, Reddy earlier said that his government would take a final view on the contours of state capital once the expert committee constituted by his government gives its report. However, his passing comment about multiple capitals on the floor of the house even before the expert committee has added a new dimension to the issue with people of the other two regions potentially backing the government's move.
Soon after coming to power in June 2019, YSR Congress Party government stopped all the ongoing works in Amaravati besides canacelling over Rs 30,000 crore worth of contracts related to the state capital awarded by the previous government headed by N Chandrababu Naidu. When Naidu recently made attempts to build protests over the government's attitude towards Amaravati, chief minister Reddy issued orders to restart the works, which are in advanced stages of completion in Amaravati, besides reiterating that the capital city will not be moved. By his latest comments chief minister Reddy again seen hardening his stance on Amaravati so quickly.
According to the observers, the latest statement about having separate legislative capital in Amaravati, an executive capital in Vizag city and a Judiciary capital in Kurnool by chief minister Reddy was aimed at rousing the regional feelings among people living in different regions of the state as similar demands were raised by vocal sections of these different regions in the past. This may effectively counter the political fight of opposition TDP, which is championing the cause of Amaravati.
According to reports, the state government is mulling further decentralising the administration by locating the heads of various line departments in different district headquarters instead of keeping all of them in a single state capital. Some of these ideas were first mooted by the Sivaramakrishan Committee constituted by the previous UPA government, in favour of decentralised development of the truncated AP in order not to create a situation for unrest between different regions of the state.
In the pat six months, chief minister Reddy took a number of decisions having a populist appeal while not so much worrying about the immediate economic and other sort of implications from these decisions. The phased liquor prohibition was one among them as he had made a promise to women when he was in opposition that his government would impose prohibition.
The smuggling of liquor into the state already prompted the government to open a number of special check posts on the borders after the retail liquor business was taken over by the state in October and the number of retail liquor shops were reduced by 20 per cent.
The government had recently admitted that its tax collections on sale of liquor came down in the past couple of months due to decline in liquor sales. This comes at a time the state government was facing a severe financial crisis besides registering a 8 per cent de-growth in government revenues in the first six months period.
Jagan government has extended its populist stance even to the ailing power sector by proposing to keep power tariff unchanged for residential and other set of large consumers despite a 45 per cent jump in revenue gap projected for the state power utilities even after raising tariff to certain categories. The government has passed a 'Disha Act' in the assembly session mandating the completion of trial within 21 days in a rape case.