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Sunday, January 29 2023

Suspense continues over Jagan government’s three capitals Bill

Cancer, anaemia focus areas for Andhra Pradesh CM Jagan Reddy
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Amaravati: The suspense continues on whether Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government in Andhra Pradesh will table a revised Bill for three state Capitals in the Assembly during the ongoing Budget session.

That the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) government has not given up its plans despite the recent adverse judgment by the High Court was evident when Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath told the Legislative Council on Monday that the government desires to have three capitals, one in each region, to ensure inclusive and balanced growth.

Replying to a query by some members, he told the house that the state has adopted the policy of decentralisation to take administration close to the citizens. This, he said, will bring the common man into the mainstream of development.

With only three days left for the ongoing Budget session to come to an end, all eyes are on the government to see whether it tables the revised Bill in place of the two Bills repealed last year or keep the matter in abeyance for now to avoid any confrontation with the judiciary.

Assembly Speaker Tammineni Sitaram has already agreed to the demand of YSRCP legislators for a discussion on decentralisation of development. This is likely to be taken up in a day or two.

During the discussion, the government may reiterate its commitment to three capitals policy and reveal how it plans to achieve the same.

A three-member Bench of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on March 3 had directed the government complete the infrastructural development like roads, drinking water, drains, and electricity in the Amaravati Capital Region within a month.

It also ruled that the state legislature lacked competence to make any legislation for shifting, bifurcating, or trifurcating the capital.

The government, however, said it remained committed to its policy of three state capitals and argued that the state legislature has the powers to make a legislation in this regard.

Former minister and YSRCP MLA Dharmana Prasad Rao has even urged Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy to convene a special session of the legislature to discuss the “doctrine of separation of powers”.

Municipal Administration Minister Botcha Satyanarayana had recently hinted at reintroduction of the revised Bill but did not give any time-frame.

Claiming that Amaravati capital has no legal sanctity as it was not acknowledged by the Parliament, he said YSRCP government would consider Amaravati as a legislative capital only.

As per the plan announced by YSRCP after coming to power in 2019, Visakhapatnam will be developed as the administrative capital, Kurnool as the judicial capital while Amaravati will only have the legislature.

The Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government had thus reversed the decision of the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government headed by Chandrababu Naidu to develop Amaravati as the only state capital.

The YSRCP government argued that three capitals will ensure decentralisation of development in all three regions of the state – north coastal Andhra, south coastal Andhra, and Rayalaseema.

However, the Jagan government’s move sparked massive protests by farmers in Amaravati, who had surrendered 33,000 acres of land for the development of the state capital. They have been protesting for over 800 days demanding the government to develop Amaravati as the only state capital.

The farmers and other groups opposing trifurcation also approached the High Court.

In a surprising move, the government on November 22, 2021 repealed two laws enacted in 2020 to create three state capitals. The Assembly passed Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Repeal Bill 2021.

The Bill repealed the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of all Regions Act 2020 and the Andhra Pradesh Capital Region development Authority Repeal Act 2020 Act.

The government, however, made it clear that it has not gone back on the decision and will come out with a new comprehensive legislation.

It was a strategic move apparently to plug the loopholes in the bills so that they are not struck down by the court.

A bench of three judges headed by Chief Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra on March 3 pronounced the judgment on 75 petitions challenging three Capitals move.

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