With the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government in Andhra Pradesh opting for three state capitals, it's almost the end of the road for dream capital Amaravati, a world-class city envisaged by his predecessor N. Chandrababu Naidu.
By virtually dumping Amaravati, Mr Reddy has not only dealt a blow to his bete noire by erasing his mark from the state capital but is also trying to consolidate politically across regions through decentralisation.
Storming to power with a landslide majority in May, the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) chief had made it clear from day one that people's welfare and not Amaravati, a Rs2 lakh crore project, is his priority.
Already reeling under a financial crunch and a series of sops announced by the new government requiring a whopping Rs40,000 crore, the state lacks the resources to execute the Amaravati project.
Alleging a big land scam in Amaravati, Mr Reddy claimed that Mr Naidu and other leaders of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) resorted to insider trading as they were privy to the information where the new capital was going to be located and purchased prime lands at a throwaway price.
YSRCP leaders also gave a caste angle to the whole issue by saying that the capital city was planned to benefit the Kammas, a community from which Mr Naidu and other top TDP leaders come. The new government put on hold all the works in Amaravati citing irregularities committed by the previous government in awarding contracts. The uncertainty led to the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank pulling out of the project.
The biggest blow came last month when a consortium of Singapore companies closed the Amaravati Capital City Startup Project, whose agreement was signed during the TDP rule.
Unfazed by Mr Naidu's criticism that the government is killing a golden goose, the YSRCP leaders pointed out that during his five-year-rule only five per cent of the work was completed by spending Rs4,900 crore. Some said he started the capital's construction in a flood-prone area.
A conflicting signal came late last month when Mr Reddy ordered the speeding up of the construction works, which were nearing completion.
At the same time, an experts' panel constituted by the government undertook a visit to all 13 districts of the state to elicit public opinion.
As indicated by Mr Reddy in the assembly on Dec 16, the six-member panel in its report suggested that some capital functions be moved to Visakhapatnam and Kurnool to ensure balanced development of all regions.
With the state secretariat and the chief minister's office proposed for Visakhapatnam, for all practical purposes the coastal city in backward north Andhra will become the hub of governance. It will also have a summer session of the assembly.
The High Court will come up in Kurnool in Rayalaseema region, from which Mr Reddy and Mr Naidu hail.
Amaravati will house the assembly and Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Governor.
Analysts say the three-capital idea is aimed at diverting the focus from Amaravati, but are not sure if it will work.
"Since one capital so hyped up met this fate, people are not fools to take the three-capital formula at face value," said analyst Telkapalli Ravi. "Rayalaseema and north coastal Andhra need capital investment."
With nine theme cities and 27 townships, Amaravati, on the banks of the Krishna river, was planned as a 217 sq km world-class city. The Singapore government had made a master plan for the capital region, capital city and seed area. It was designed not merely as an administrative capital, but also as an economic and job creating hub and tourism centre.
Amaravati had then attracted the attention of investors from Australia, Japan, Germany, Singapore and Britain.
Indo-Asian News Service