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Revenue deficit, infrastructure challenges for new Andhra Pradesh


Saddled with a huge revenue deficit and facing an onerous task of putting up essential government infrastructure from scratch following bifurcation last year, the Andhra Pradesh government set the ball rolling in 2015 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi laying the foundation stone for its permanent capital city Amaravati.

The death of 27 people in a stampede on the inaugural day of Godavari 'Pushkaram' in July and the killing of 20 people allegedly involved in smuggling of red sanders are some of the other major incidents that hit the successor state of Andhra Pradesh during the year.

The truncated state faced with a revenue deficit of more than Rs 15,000 crore with Hyderabad, the crown jewel of undivided Andhra and a growth-engine, going to Telangana as per the Andhra Pradesh Re-organisation Act of 2014. The state continues to reel under a financial crisis and had to resort to over draft facility and raise money through borrowings during the year.

Despite financial constraints, Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu unveiled ambitious plans to build a world class capital city and the Singapore government agencies prepared master plans for the three-layered capital free of cost as per his request. The three layers are the seed capital, capital city and the capital region. After announcing plans to build the capital city on the banks of river Krishna in the Krishna and Guntur districts, the state government managed to pool more than 33,000 acres under its 'Land Pooling Scheme'.

The essential administrative infrastructure, including Secretariat, Raj Bhavan, Legislative Assembly, would be built by the Centre as per the AP Re-organisation Act, the state government plans to develop the city as a growth engine that would be a hub of activity in the spheres of education, service sector, tourism, entertainment and others in the PPP mode.

Modi laid the foundation stone for the capital city on the Vijaya Dasami day of October 22 at a grand event attended by Union ministers, top industrialists, film and media personalities. The Prime Minister, in tune with the state government's programme of collecting soil and water from all over the state for using in capital city construction, brought soil from the Parliament House complex and water from sacred river Yamuna.

The symbolic gesture, however, faced flak from opposition parties like YSR Congress, Congress and the Left who targeted the TDP government for not eliciting any concrete announcement of help to the state "but bringing only water and soil". Hitting out at the NDA government for not honouring the promise of Special Category Status made to Seemandhra (new Andhra Pradesh) at the time of bifurcation, the YSR Congress held?protests, including a sit-in at Parliament Street in Delhi.

The promise of Special Category Status was made to Andhra Pradesh by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Parliament at the time of passage of the re-organisation act. Alleging that the ruling TDP-BJP combine "deceived" the people on the special status issue, the Congress organised a series of agitations during the year, including filing "police cases" against Modi, Venkaiah Naidu and other Union ministers hailing from Andhra Pradesh and the chief minister. Though the NDA government kicked off a number of prestigious institutions like IIT, IIM, NIT, IISER, a central institute of excise and customs in Andhra Pradesh as per the act and announced funds in tranches under different heads, it came under attack for not according special status to the state.

There is some disquiet among some sections of TDP that Andhra Pradesh did not benefit much by aligning with the BJP and sharing power at the Centre and the state. "Also, Naidu had wielded immense clout by being a key supporter of the then NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but his influence seems to be largely missing now as the BJP is not dependent on allies for support," a political observer said.

In the most important decision for the state during the year, Naidu shifted his base to Vijayawada though Hyderabad is the common capital city of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana for a period of 10 years as per the Act. Naidu's argument was that the seat of administration should be within the state and not in Hyderabad, which is far from any district in Andhra Pradesh.

Despite the shortage of office space in Vijayawada, the state government made it clear to its employees based in Hyderabad that all the departments, including Secretariat, should function in the permanent capital region by June 1, 2016. The relations between the two states came to a "breaking point" over allegations of tapping of phones of senior functionaries of Andhra Pradesh government and the ruling TDP at the behest of the Telangana government.

However, a thaw in ties between Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and Naidu came after the latter personally invited the former to the capital city foundation laying ceremony. Rao reciprocated the gesture by flying into Vijayawada on December 14 to invite Naidu to the Ayutha Chandi Yagam from December 23 at his farmhouse near Hyderabad. The TDP announced its plans to become a national party to effectively function in the two Telugu-speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in the wake of bifurcation and Naidu was elected as the national president of the party.

It decided to expand its footprint in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Odisha and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, albeit slowly, where there is a considerable Telugu population. Naidu's son Lokesh came to assume a bigger role in party affairs during the year and was appointed as the general secretary of the party's central committee.

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