It was once the capital of south India’s powerful Satavahana rulers. History repeated itself on Thursday when Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Andhra Pradesh’s futuristic new capital, Amaravati, that will come up on the banks of the river Krishna.
In a show of support for the new capital, Modi brought a jar of soil from the Parliament complex and water from the Yamuna river for the inauguration attended by thousands of people, including farmers who gave up their land for the project.
“I have got soil from the temple of democracy, the Parliament complex and water from the Yamuna river,” he said at the ceremony a day after Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu sprinkled holy water and soil collected from several sacred places over the planned city.
Striking a chord with the people, Modi referred to the famous Telugu poet Srirangam Srinivasarao’s magnum opus Mahaprasthanam (Towards a Great March), saying he had symbolically brought the soil and water as Amaravati stepped on the road to emerging as a great city and a “people’s capital”.
“This symbol has the message … that Delhi will always stand and move shoulder to shoulder in Andhra’s journey to touch new heights,” Modi said.
The gesture was in line with an Andhra Pradesh government campaign of gathering soil and water from about 16,000 villages for the capital’s construction. Soil and sacred water from prominent pilgrim centres like Manasa Sarovar, Varanasi, the Ajmer dargah and Medak church have been brought to build the capital.
However, Modi did not announce any special package or financial support for Andhra Pradesh which also wants special category status.
Modi blamed the former Congress-led government for dividing Andhra Pradesh and said he was pained by the loss of life that came with the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
“Andhra and Telangana bifurcation was done in a hurry, without proper consultation, but I am still pained by the loss of innocent life and damage to property that took place,” Modi said after laying the foundation stone for Amaravati.
“There are some things that the British did and it still bothers us ... The former government has also done something similar... There is always tension between Andhra and Telangana,” he said.
In contrast, Modi said three new states --- Uttarkhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh -- were created during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure and there has been no problem.
Naidu has promised that Amaravati will be a world-class people’s capital. To be built from scratch, the riverfront capital designed by the Singapore government will be an energy-efficient and green city dotted with industrial hubs. Spread over 217 sq km between Vijayawada and Guntur towns, the core capital will be in an eight sq km area with the secretariat, government offices, residences of the chief minister and governor.
While expressing his gratitude to Modi, Naidu appealed for help for the capital. The Andhra Pradesh government is expecting a Rs 1.25 lakh crore package along the lines of Bihar. “We have received some support from you already. But I request your handholding for the state till it can be on its own and contribute to the country,” Naidu said.
Modi reiterated that his government’s commitments made in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act 2014 would be fulfilled “in letter and spirit”. Special status and package are not part of the act which limits support to the capital to core government structures like the secretariat and assembly.
(With agency inputs)