The meeting was fortuitous but rewarding. An Andhra businessman wanting to be a politician from East Godavari district – the heart of coastal Andhra – was waiting to meet a senior Congress functionary-cum-minister talked candidly about what Hyderabad means to Andhraites. He cannot be named because his lobbying for a ticket in the forthcoming elections would be torpedoed if he is identified.
He runs a college in Rajahmundry, headquarters of East Godavari district. Rajahmundry is a celebrated place in Andhra history, also known as Rajamahendravaram of yore. And he also runs a college in Nalgonda. It is an example of the entrepreneurial panache of the Andhraites. He has done his Bachelor’s of Commerce (B Com) and law at Andhra University. He has also done a course from the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), New Delhi.
He said that he wanted to buy a pair of footwear in Rajahmundry and he was willing to pay a higher price as well. But the footwear shops in Rajahmundry did not keep anything above the price tag of Rs250. The reason being there are no buyers for more expensive wares there. So the person who wants to buy anything of a better quality anywhere in Andhra and who is willing to pay for the luxury stuff he wants in his hometown will not find it there and has to look elsewhere. It is also about other objects of desire like good clothes, good schools, a better job and business opportunities. He comes to Hyderabad, the capital of the state, to satisfy his needs and desires, his aspirations.
It is a minor example of Hyderabad being the city of desires and aspirations for the Andhraites, the rich and the poor. The poor man thinks that he will find a better job in the state capital. It is a minor El Dorado for the Andhraites. It is also a city of dreams like what Mumbai was to many Indians of a not-so-long-ago generation. Hyderabad is the Big Apple – the soubriquet for New York in the United States which was once called New Amsterdam – of Andhra Pradesh, the city of dreams and desires.
The other example of the importance of Hyderabad he offers is more substantial. The businessman owns pieces of land in Srikakulam, at the far northern end of the state bordering Odisha, in Rajahmundry and in Nalgonda. He says that in the last 10 years or so, the price of the land in Srikakulam had just grown by five per cent, the price of the land in Rajahmundry by about 10 per cent. But in Nalgonda the price has increased by 500 per cent. He argues that the reason for the phenomenal increase in the value of land in Nalgonda is due to the fact that it closer to Hyderabad. Collaborative evidence comes from the opposite side. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekhara Rao’s son, K Rama Rao, was quite emphatic that the Andhraites in Hyderabad, those who have been born here and who have been working here, belong to Telangana. He blamed chief minister N Kiran Reddy for spreading panic among the Andhraites in Hyderabad.