The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly late on Monday night passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020 that intended to give shape to state government's plan of having three capitals -- executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial in Kurnool.
This was protested by hundreds of farmers and women in Amaravati region who defied prohibitory orders and broke security cordon to reach the state legislature complex.
Caught off-guard, the police resorted to lathi-charge to quell the crowd.
Even as the high drama was witnessed on the rear side of the complex, Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu led his Telugu Desam Party legislators on a foot march a few metres from the main entrance gate into the assembly.
However, the TDP could not organise a siege of the assembly due to deployment of a strong posse of police force.
Naidu and at least 17 MLAs of his party were taken in police custody late on Monday night as they tried to conduct a foot march from the assembly to nearby Mandadam village in violation of prohibitory orders.
TDP leaders started off on the march after staging a sit-in near the assembly main entrance following the suspension of 17 MLAs from the House for the day.
The TDP leaders were taken to the Mangalagiri police station.
17 MLAs of the TDP were suspended from the assembly for disrupting Chief Minister Reddy's address on the Andhra Pradesh Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020.
The bill provides for dividing the state into various zones and establishing zonal planning and development boards.
The village and (municipal) ward secretariats system that the government brought in October last year now gets statutory backing as it has been made part of the new bill.
Moving the bill in the assembly on the first day of the extended winter session, Finance and Legislative Affairs Minister Buggana Rajendranath said the government decided to enact a new legislation for decentralisation and inclusive development of all regions in the state for ensuring 'balanced and inclusive growth'.
"Regional imbalances, absence of equitable growth have caused an acute sense of deprivation among various sections of the state population, leading to disturbances.
"The logical solution would be to lay emphasis on distributed development and decentralised administration to ensure that fruits of socio-economic progress are enjoyed equally by people of various regions," the minister said, quoting the recommendations of a high-power committee which formed the basis of the new legislation.
The TDP members raised objection to the introduction of the bill and stormed the speaker's podium.
They also stormed the podium during Reddy's address and raised slogans demanding that Naidu be allowed to continue with his address. They also raised 'Jai Amaravati' slogan during the address of the Leader of the House.
A visibly irritated Reddy asked the Speaker to call in the House Marshals to evict the opposition members. Legislative Affairs Minister Buggana Rajendranath then moved a motion for suspension of the 17 TDP MLAs, including deputy leaders K Atchannaidu and N China Rajappa. The motion was passed by voice vote.
Following this, marshals entered the House to evict the TDP members but the latter resisted, causing pandemonium.
The marshals then forcibly evicted the protesting legislators from the House, after which the chief minister continued his address.
Naidu then joined his colleagues at the assembly gate and staged a sit-in.
Police claimed six of their personnel sustained injuries in stone pelting by the protesting farmers and others and said cases were being registered against those who defied the law.
As many as 5,000 police personnel, including several senior officers, were deployed for bandobast duties in view of the crucial three-day extended winter session of the legislature.
About 700 to 800 protestors, including a large number of women, from villages like Mandadam, Velagapudi and Tulluru ran across the barren fields and reached the rear periphery of the Legislature complex.
The protesters even jumped over barbed wire fences placed by the police at various spots and some stood waist-deep in the slushy water, holding placards and raising Save Amaravati slogans.
The Port city Visakhapatnam, which has the sobriquet City of Destiny, will soon become the Capital of the state if the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government overcomes the opposition in the Legislative Council and also possible legal hurdles.
Meanwhile, the government also moved another bill to repeal the AP Capital Region Development Authority Act, 2014.
The government said it intended to constitute a new Amaravati Metropolitan Region Development Area under the provisions of AP Metropolitan Region and Urban Development Authorities Act, 2016.
The CRDA Act was enacted on December 22, 2014 for the development of the state capital post-bifurcation with a specific area demarcated as the capital region.
Now that the YSR Congress government has decided to have three capitals for the state, the CRDA Act is proposed to be repealed.
Earlier in the day, the Cabinet met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy and cleared the draft bills. The cabinet also approved the recommendations of the HPC on the capitals issue.
But the government could face hurdles in getting the bills cleared in the Legislative Council, which sits from Tuesday, as the ruling party does not have a majority.
Meanwhile, tensions prevailed at the Jana Sena Party headquarters at Mangalagiri as police prevented its president Pawan Kalyan from proceeding to the Amaravati region to speak to protesters fighting for the retention of only one capital for the state.
DIG Kanti Rana Tata and other senior police officials reached the Sena office and blocked the exit of Kalyan and political affairs committee chairman Nadendla Manohar, resulting in an argument.
Kalyan asked how could police impose restrictions within his own office.
Scores of Sena workers gathered outside the office even as a large posse of police was posted to thwart Kalyan and other leaders' plans.