In January 2020, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy’s cabinet approved a proposal to have three capitals for the state, and two weeks ago, it was accepted by Governor Biswabhusan Harichandan. As per the new plan, the cities Visakhapatnam, Amaravati, and Kurnool will be the executive, legislative, and judicial capitals, respectively.
Now, the Tamil Nadu government has proposed the idea of a second capital, with many people clamouring for Madurai to be given this honour. This has been a talking point from the time of former Chief Minister MG Ramachandran. State officials believe this will reduce pressure on Chennai, and promote industrial and economic growth in the southern districts of the state.
What is the purpose of having multiple capitals?
In the case of Andhra Pradesh, the three proposed cities are far-flung from each other. Kurnool and Visakhapatnam are at a distance of 700 km with Amaravati in between. Officials believe that having different capitals can help in spreading economic growth through different and diverse channels. Having more than one capital for a state or union territory helps cover developmental gaps in cities and villages surrounding the capital.
But this is not new to India. For example, Uttar Pradesh considers Prayagraj as the judicial capital and Lucknow as the administrative capital. Having multiple branches of government in different cities can help in the development of areas, which otherwise are far from the capital. There are other states with two capitals, and their reasons for doing so are varied. Here are the reasons:
Maharashtra has two capitals — Mumbai and Nagpur — with the latter being the winter capital of the state.
The States Reorganisation Act, 1956 led to India being divided based on languages. Marathi-speakers demanded a separate state for themselves, and eventually, Bombay State was divided into Maharashtra and Gujarat.
Indian political leaders came to an agreement on 28 September 1953, called the ‘Nagpur Pact’. This resulted in the creation of Maharashtra with Marathi-speaking areas from the then Bombay State, parts of Madhya Pradesh, the then Hyderabad state, and Vidarbha, which was taken from the Central Provinces.
Being 1,000 km away from Mumbai, the people of Vidarbha were in doubt whether development and fair treatment would be given to them, hence Nagpur was decided as the second capital. During the winter session, assemblies would be held there, and the issues of the Vidarbha population would be addressed.
Belagavi, previously known as Belgaum, is a city in northern Karnataka. It is the second most populous district, with 10 lakh people, after Bengaluru. While it is not officially announced, this city is considered as the second capital of Karnataka.
According to news reports, the reason to make Belagavi the second capital was because this city and other parts of northern Karnataka were neglected in terms of development. People felt that though the region’s population was increasing, there was little or no improvement in the city’s infrastructure. An article in The Times of India suggests that it was owing to a political situation between Karnataka and Maharashtra.
In 2012, a ‘Suvarna Vidhana Soudha,’ the state legislature building was constructed in Belagavi, where winter sessions of the state’s assembly are held.
Jammu and Kashmir
The Union Territory Jammu and Kashmir, also has two capitals — Srinagar in summers and Jammu in winters.
Every year, from May to October, all the legislative meetings are held in Srinagar, and from November to April, they shift to Jammu which is the winter capital of the state.
This bi-annual shift is known as Darbar move. It was established in the 19th century by Ranbir Singh, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, and there are different reasons behind the move — strategic as well as climatic.
In 1846, once the Treaty of Amritsar was signed, the regions of Jammu, as well as Kashmir, came under the Dogra Kingdom which was the King’s dynasty. To keep the people of Kashmir happy, both Srinagar and Jammu were made capitals of the state,and the assembly would take place for 6 months in both places.
The other reason for the Darbar move is the harsh winters that make Srinagar inaccessible.
The hilly state is another one that has two capitals — Dharamshala and Shimla. The latter is considered the summer capital because the region receives heavy snowfall during winter, causing landslides.
In 2017, then Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh officially announced that Dharamshala town will be the second state capital. According to news reports, the CM believed that making this the capital would improve lower-lying areas of the state — Kangra, Chamba, Hamirpur and Una districts, and benefit those who had to travel a long way to Shimla for their work.
Just like new states were created for mostly administrative reasons, the idea of more than one capital is also to bring in ease of administration, development to remote regions in these states, and for cultural significance. So, while these conversations may seem new to us today, they have been happening for decades, with solutions at the end of them.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra & Sruthi Radhakrishnan)