By Kommineni Srinivasa Rao

The issue of construction of the capital city of Amaravati has been a controversial one from the very first day. Former chief minister Chandrababu Naidu's with his extravagant policies tried to delude the people of the state. As a result, his decisions have now grown into a millstone around the new government's neck. Chandrababu turned the task of contruction of capital into a real estate venture in the name of development. The YSRCP which was in the opposition at that time repeatedly highlighted the scam which resulted from insider trading in the real estate venture of the capital. As Leader of the Opposition in AP assembly, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy had slammed the policies of the TDP government and put forth his viewpoint in clear and sharp terms. Inevitably, this onerous responsibility now falls on his shoulders. He will have to act against those responsible for insider trading, while assuring people of the state that development would continue unhindered. Meanwhile, there an English daily carried the news item centering on allegations that Chandrababu Naidu's brother-in-law and Hindupur TDP MLA, Nandamuri Balakrishna, acquired 500 acres of land in the capital city region with prior knowledge. The truth is as yet, unknown. Meanwhile, Balakrishna's son-in-law Nara Lokesh, claimed that YSR Congress leaders were making these allegations which they should substantiate. YSRCP parliamentary party leader and Rajya Sabha MP, V. Vijayasai Reddy asked Lokesh not to react in haste. He added that all facts would soon come out. This would suggest that the insider trading business would soon come to light.

In fact, shortly after Chandrababu came to power, an expert committee nominated by the Centre, headed by Sivaramakrishnan had clearly stated that the capital should not be located between Vijayawada and Guntur and that such a decision would result in many problems. It had recommended that the capital be located in arid parts and areas with government lands. However, the TDP government brushed aside the recommendations of the committee. The government further blamed the Congress party for not announcing the location of the new capital. Later, the chief minister gave rise to a lot of speculation by hinting that the new capital would be located in the Vijayawada region. People flocked to Nuzvid and surrounding areas and bought land there, assuming that the new capital would come up there. However, Chandrababu chose one of the most fertile areas by the banks of river Krishna as the likely place for the location of the new capital. This is an area where farmers grow three crops in a year.

There are widespread allegations that the announcement regarding the location of the new capital was made after several bigwigs of the TDP, their relatives and associates bought land in the area. This is nothing short of insider trading. Those who bought land near Nuzvid suffered serious losses. Farmers who sold land to real estate businessmen near Tulluru and other places also suffered losses. Thereafter, brokers benefited the most from transactions in the region. It was then that the location of the capital was announced. The master plan was reduced to a mere formality. The TDP government used land pooling as a tool against farmers who did not wish to part with their land and even burnt their crops to force them. Farmers were harassed by the police, as well. Chandrababu however, claimed that he had achieved something no one else had. Barring a few temporary buildings, no significant progress was made thereafter. If Chandrababu had not acquired more than 5,000 acres, there would have been no problem and the farmers too would have been spared.

Of late, Chandrababu has been indulging in the propaganda that real estate prices have dropped sharply now and that in his tenure, real estate prices went up as high as Rs. 30,000 per sq foot. However, what is interesting is that his government had set land price at Rs.1200 per yard. Clearly, this proves that apart from the registration charges, the rest is to be paid in black money. This was Chandrababu's so-called campaign against black money. Actually, it was brokers and a handful of farmers who benefited from the brief boom in real estate. But two years ago, real estate prices fell down after people realized that there was no development on the ground. Businessmen had pointed this out long ago. Chandrababu Naidu is glossing over these facts.

The TDP government had estimated that the construction of the capital would cost one lakh crore rupees. Chandrababu turned the capital city project into a massive real estate venture and tried to fool the people of the state. They in turn, taught him a sound lesson in the elections.

Amaravati has turned into a thorny problem for YS Jagan, but with the political will he has demonstrated, he would be certainly able to resolve it.

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