Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday cleared the proposal to hand over Defence land to the Telangana government for the location of the new Secretariat. 60 acres of Parade Ground land in Secunderabad is being allocated to the government.
Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley told the Defence Secretary to expedite the process as the request from Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been in waiting since a year. This was decided at a high-level official meeting held in the chambers of Arun Jaitley where the Defence Secretary, Chief of Army staff and Officials of the Defence Estates division of the defence ministry were present.
Informed sources also confirmed that Jaitley is likely to write a letter to KCR to convey the transfer of the land to the state government with conditions as there is a legal angle to the transfer of defence lands to governments. In all probabilities, the 60 acres of defence land will be handed over to the Telangana Government in six months time, thereafter the process of construction of the new Secretariat of Telangana government will begin. In lieu of these 60 acres, the government of Telangana has agreed to hand over the same area to the Ministry of Defence near Hyderabad, where the Defence Ministry can have the shooting range and other regular defence activities.
Is there a quid pro quo? TRS will vote for BJP president candidate, in turn Defence land will be allotted?
New Delhi political circles are agog with speculation that pressure from KCR has worked, since the TRS has decided to vote for the BJP candidate in the Presidential elections. But BJP circles deny saying that this is not a new development as the earlier defence minister Manohar Parrikar had been reviewing the request from KCR.
How political pressure has been effectively used by Telangana CM is also interesting. For the past two years the state government had been in touch with the Defence Ministry officials at various levels and through many channels, yet nothing happened. But last week, when KCR had a personal meeting with the prime minister and gave assurance of Telangana Rashtriya Samiti’s support to BJP candidate for Presidential elections, everything fell into place.
A backgrounder to this story is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Jaitley while KCR was still in a meeting with him and ensured that the land allotment should take place within the May 2017. Additionally, Governor ESL Narasimhan who had a one to one meeting with PM Modi also had indicated that the state government request for the defence land should be given to the state to construct the secretariat.
Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra will soon depute senior officials and a senior joint secretary to discuss with the Chief Secretary Government of Telangana in Hyderabad to ensure that this process is expedited in two months time.
Balance tilted in favour of Telangana?
Narendra Modi as a prime minister took a decision to help out both states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. But it seems he has kept a special eye on Telangana as politically it would be on a strong ground for BJP. The reason is well known as the party knows they will be able to garner majority votes as there is no Congress to compete with. During election meetings in 2014 BJP and Modi, both took the cause of construction of capital and state secretariats for these two states. What the UPA government did was to divide the Telugu speaking state of Andhra Pradesh into two. One is Andhra Pradesh and the other is Telangana. In the past four years after the bifurcation there was a pin drop silence about the construction of not only the capital for these two states but also the Secretariat where their government departments would be housed.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu chose Amaravati as the location for their capital. Similarly, KCR had the already existing capital Hyderabad, but not the state government secretariat. To construct the Secretariat Telangana needed land and at that time only the Union Ministry of Defence had this huge land as a shooting range for the Army and here training is still imparted. KCR mooted a proposal to Modi to get the Army Cantonment land. For the past three years it was in cold storage and Andhra Secretariat was still being used. Now in 2017 when the Andhra government staff completely moved to Amaravati and now for temporary purposes the Telangana Government is using the old secretariat.
The announced process is now nearing completion and in six months the foundation stone for new secretariat will be laid. Steel and cement raw material prices are now low. There will be a huge construction activities not only in Amaravati but also in Hyderabad as the Andhra government has also begun work on their capital.
Private cement manufacturers will only be too happy to supply huge quantity of cement. Before the two Chief Ministers face the electorates- be it Telugu Desam’s Chandrababu Naidu or Telangana Rashtriya Samiti’s K Chandrasekhar Rao the party can and will proudly say they helped construct the Capitals and also secretariat. But will BJP encash this politically in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections? Wait and watch this space.