PM to Vizag on November 11 as 3 capitals, steel plant issues loom

The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Visakhapatnam on November 11 to take part in a slew of developmental activities has been finalised

PM to Vizag on November 11 as 3 capitals, steel plant issues loom

VISAKHAPATNAM: The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Visakhapatnam on November 11 to take part in a slew of developmental activities has been finalised. Among many programmes, Modi will lay a foundation stone for the Rs 400-crore upgradation works at Visakhapatnam Railway Station. The announcement of the Prime Minister's visit comes amid speculation that it was likely to stoke the local sentiment in the form of some backlash, particularly with regard to the Centre's moves to privatise Visakhapatnam Steel Plant (Vizag steel).

This is, perhaps, the first time that the Prime Minister will be visiting the port city especially after his has embarked on the process to privatise the Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. It is also widely perceived that other emotive issues like special category status to Andhra Pradesh and Railway Zone to Visakhapatnam – both promises pending as part of the State Reorganisation Act – besides the more recent demand of administrative capital status to the port city were also likely to crop up during the Prime Minister's visit.

As per the finalised itinerary of the Prime Minister's visit received by the railway authorities here, Narendra Modi will lay foundation stones and inaugurate various developmental and infrastructure projects, sponsored by the Union Government. Some of them are the Rs 26,000 crore Visakhapatnam HPCL Petroleum Refinery expansion and modernisation project, cruise terminal and the first phase of a new, green campus of IIM Visakhapatnam.

Narendra Modi is also scheduled to address a public meeting at the Andhra University Engineering College Grounds in the evening of November 11. As part of protocol, Andhra Pradesh Governor Biswabhushan Harichandan and Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy will also be present at the official programmes on that day.

Leaders of the BJP's Andhra Pradesh unit have been making serious efforts for quite some time to have the Prime Minister visit Visakhapatnam. There is a feeling internally that a visit by Narendra Modi with a slew of sops would go a long way in placating the anger and frustration within the North Andhra region on the issue of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant. There is also simmering discontentment locally over the constant denial of a separate Railway Zone for the port city.

The recent political buildup around the emotive issue of administrative capital status to Visakhapatnam has also made matters worse for the saffron party leaders in the State. Though some of its leaders were publicly throwing their weight behind Amaravati as the only capital, the party has been hesitant to pronounce its clear stand on the three-capitals concept mooted by YSRCP chief and Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy.

Some of the BJP leaders have already started feeling the heat of protests from those gunning for decentralisation of administrative power. One such instance was witnessed on Wednesday in Anantapuram district where BJP's Andhra Pradesh Unit President Somu Veerraju was accosted and pressurised to extend his party's support for the three-capitals idea.

Though the BJP has been long-awaiting the arrival of the Prime Minister in Visakhapatnam, they don't seem to be that excited now when the November-11 visit has been officially confirmed. Only recently, the city of destiny was on the boil due to the Visakha Garjana rally by the supporters of three-capitals plan and then the ruckus witnessed in the city involving Jana Sena activists and their leader Pawan Kalyan.

There is an underlying fear that any protests during Modi's visit – be it for the administrative capital or the railway zone or even over the steel plant privatisation move – will lead to awkward moments and can even precipitate the public perception against the BJP. The protests, if at all planned, are only likely to happen without any political colour as none of the other three major entities (YSRCP, TDP and the Jana Sena) is expected to resort to street protests due to their own respective reasons.

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