New Districts, New Mess?
The formation of new districts in Andhra Pradesh which were announced on India’s 73rd Republic Day is symbolic of what the current Chief Minister, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, has in store for the state.
By dividing 13 districts into 26, the YSRCP government claims that this will decentralize governance and enable local governance. A bit of content on how Jagan landed this idea of dividing the state into smaller districts. During his Praja Sankalpa Yatra before the Assembly elections in 2019, had promised that the number of districts would be increased from 13 to 25 for decentralization, better administration and taking governance to the doorsteps of the people. In its election manifesto, the YSR Congress promised to turn every Lok Sabha constituency into a district.
Legally not binding?
Taking forward this promise, the Jagan government has taken up the exercise for formation of new districts. However, the Union home ministry has directed all states not to make any jurisdictional changes from January 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021. Therefore, this plan was kept on hold. This is in view of house listing operation (HLO) being taken up, along with updating of National Population Register (NPR), as part of Census of India-2021.
Additionally, the new districts plan is something that the state did not get the nod from till the census is completed. The state administration and the Chief Minister had earlier thought that delimitation of Assembly constituencies will be completed in a year. They decided to form new districts after that. But the Centre instead decided to take up delimitation exercise in the two Telugu states along with that of other states “after the first Census after 2026”. Because of this, the state government decided to take up the exercise of forming new districts.
Despite this going against the Centre’s restrictions, the YSRCP government has taken this up. Though the Government of India did not endorse the move as is being opposed vehemently by the Opposition parties in AP, some leaders from the central BJP leadership have openly endorsed new districts formation. Incidentally, the Telangana state government has already formed new districts, increasing the number from 10 to 34.
Well, the state has 25 Lok Sabha constituencies and each is supposed to be made a revenue district. However, with its size being too large and spread over many districts, the tribal-dominated Araku Lok Sabha constituency is being split into two new districts.
The two new tribal districts will be Manyam, with headquarters in Parvathipuram, and Alluri Sitarama Raju, named after the legendary Telugu freedom fighter with headquarters in Paderu. The other new districts are Anakapalli (out of the existing Visakhapatnam district), Konaseema and Kakinada (out of East Godavari), Eluru (out of West Godavari), NTR (out of Krishna), Bapatla and Palnadu (out of Guntur), Nandyal (out of Kurnool), Sri Satya Sai (out of Anantapuramu), Annamayya (out of Kadapa) and Sri Balaji (out of Chittoor).
The headquarters of the existing East Godavari district is being shifted to Rajamahendravaram and that of West Godavari to Bhimavaram. Though he was born in the other part of Krishna district, falling under the Machilipatnam Lok Sabha constituency, the government chose to name the newly created district (spread over Vijayawada Lok Sabha constituency) after the Telugu legend N T Rama Rao (NTR).
Many netizens and citizens from the state are unhappy with the creation of new districts. For instance: One netizen commented: “I’m from West Godavari Nidadavolu constituency. Now my constituency has moved to East Godavari.” On the face of it, this may look like you have moved to a new Lok Sabha constituency, it also means that the candidate list for MLA and MPs along with caste equations will change in the political scenario of the state.
This could create further discontent in the state along with political slugfest where politicians become more greedy for power. in the future. Well, this may not be a good idea for an already caste-obsessed state that has given a chance to the power-hungry political class that is eating up the state’s resources and bankrupting it.
TEJASWINI PAGADALA is an independent communications consultant. She has previously worked with the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister’s Office as the Communications Officer where she has written English speeches for the CM, managed English media communication from the CMO and handled social media accounts of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and the Government.