Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden’s proposal to shift the state capital from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi has triggered light-hearted banter as well as heated debates.

D Dhanuraj, Chairman of CPPR, comments on the news Capital Q: Here’s the reaction on Ernakulam MP Hibi’s proposal to shift Kerala’s capital“. The news was published in The New Indian Express on 4th July 2023.

Cochin was the first princely state to join the Indian Union willingly after India won its independence. E Ikkanda Warrier became the first prime minister of Kochi. The kingdom of Travancore initially wanted to be an independent country.

After several discussions and negotiations between Sree Chithira Thirunal and V P Menon, the king agreed to join the Indian Union on August 12, 1947. And On July 1, 1949, the Kingdom of Travancore merged with the Kingdom of Cochin and Travancore-Kochi or Thirukochi was formed. Its original capital was Thiruvananthapuram.After the States Reorganisation Act came into effect, on November 1, 1956, by combining Malayalam-speaking regions of Cochin, Malabar, South Canara, and Travancore, Kerala was formed as a state.

Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden’s proposal to shift the state capital from Thiruvananthapuram to Kochi has triggered light-hearted banter as well as heated debates. TNIE pops the question: Yay or nay?

D Dhanuraj, chairman, Centre for Public Policy Research, Kochi

I support Hibi Eden’s proposal but from a different perspective. There must be decentralisation. Why should every ministry or department be based in Thiruvananthapuram? For instance, Thrissur is known as the cultural capital of Kerala, but the arts and culture department is in Thiruvananthapuram. Hibi has raised a relevant question.

N S Madhavan, author
I am a Kochiite at heart. I love this city. However, there is no need to make Kochi the state capital. It is a ridiculous debate. Instead, we should concentrate on bettering the sanitation of the city. Kochi is already a highly populated area. Shifting the capital will be a waste of time and money. At the time of Independence, Thiruvananthapuram was already the capital of the Travancore Kingdom. Hence, it had a better infrastructure to offer. However, the Cochin kingdom has several capitals – Thrissur, Fort Kochi, and Tripunithura. Kochi enjoyed the privilege only briefly. That is why, during the formation of Thiru-Kochi, the city wasn’t chosen as the capital of Kerala. What Kochi needs now is more development projects.

Benny Behanan, MP (Chalakudy), INC
This is an unrequired debate. The idea that Kochi is at the centre of Kerala and is, therefore, more suitable to be the capital is preposterous. Is Delhi, at the centre of India? Mumbai is the commercial hub of our country. Is anyone demanding Mumbai be made the national capital? As a Congress member, Hibi Eden should never have gone ahead with such a proposal.

K J Sohan, former Kochi mayor
What we need is a decentralised administration. Every government is headquartered in Thiruvananthapuram, making smooth governance difficult for local bodies. Now for every minuscule thing one has to visit the capital city. Why can’t the tribal welfare department be in Palakkad? Why not the industries department in Kochi? Also, if e-governance is properly implemented, all these issues will be solved; it won’t matter where the capital is.

P M Veeramani, president, Kochi Chamber of Commerce
Why not Kochi as the state capital? I agree that we cannot do this one fine morning. It will need proper planning, infrastructure, etc. I believe Kochi will be a better-suited capital city. It is an industrialised and fast-developing city. Also, it is at the centre of the state, making it easily accessible.

P F Mathews, author
The suggestion is utter nonsense. It was a shrewd political tactic to divert discussions on major issues. Kochi was choking with toxic fumes a few months ago, and we still haven’t solved the waste issue. Instead of discussing the lack of infrastructure and abysmal waste management, we are discussing an absurd idea. Even when Kochi Metro was inaugurated, I said we were ignoring the basic issue of our city, the perpetual stink. I have lost hope.

S N Raghuchandran Nair, president, Trivandrum Chamber of Commerce and Industry
I think the demand is part of the larger agenda. Thiruvananthapuram’s growth trajectory is phenomenal, and a section of people want to undermine this growth. There is no doubt Thiruvananthapuram is going to be one of the leading cities in south India. Earlier, several institutions were hijacked from the city to other districts. Raising such foolish demands will only bring divisions in the state. That said, being the capital, Thiruvananthapuram has been bearing the brunt of dharnas, protest marches, political violence and traffic diversions.

E M Najeeb, vice president, Indian Association of tour operators
We strongly condemn the demand to move the capital. We have been demanding a High Court bench in Trivandrum because we had one here in the past. Thiruvananthapuram has the perfect administrative setup. There should be some basis when an MP raises such a demand; we can only laugh off such foolish demands. His own party is not supporting this. I feel either this is a childish or immature move or part of some mysterious agenda.

Dr G Vijayaraghavan, former State Planning Board member
It’s an ill-conceived idea. What shocked me was that somebody who represents a national party was raising such a demand. This has put his party at a disadvantage.

Vrinda Rajagopal, biochemist, Thiruvananthapuram
Being the state capital is an emotion for the people here. I believe the discussion on shifting the state capital is a waste of time. There are many other pressing issues that people’s representatives should be ideally addressing.

Arjun P Bhasker, IT professional, Kochi
It was just a question put up for discussion in a democracy. I believe that the state-wide opinion of the public should be taken into account, rather than dismissing it like how the ruling and opposition parties did. Kochi is the gateway to Kerala and it suits best as the capital. It was disappointing that the chief minister, in his reply, said that there was no land available in Kochi for development. In this very same district, the government is planning to execute the GIFT City project, bypass road development, and other major industrial projects. Not Hibi’s proposal, it’s the responses that have been immature.

M Anilkumar, Kochi mayor
I have no comments on Hibi’s proposal. Right now, what Kochi needs is infrastructure development. The projects related to Cochin Port and Vallarpadam container terminal have not made major progress. Moreover, the Kochi Metro’s second phase expansion is not getting enough funds. We must focus on what needs to be done for the city, like suburban railway projects, road development, waste management, etc.

V K Prasanth, MLA (Vattoyoorkavu), CPM
We believe the MP did this for attention and, hence, have decided not to respond. Hibi did this without any consultation with his own party. Such discussions will only divide the people of Kerala. Every district has its own importance and the government has been taking all due efforts to strengthen the growth of each one.

Jose Dominic, MD & CEO, CGH Earth
From a tourism point of view, shifting the capital will not help Kochi in any way. The city is already congested. The entire Ernakulam district will become more populated and busier if we shift the capital here. I believe it is best that Thiruvananthapuram remains our capital.

Indu Menon, writer
When I was a child, I always wanted my place, Ramanttukara, to be the capital of Kerala! I found Hibi’s private bill funny. Perhaps personal interests and emotional connection with the place guided his decision.

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of the Centre for Public Policy Research.

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