By T S Sudhir
The divide in Andhra Pradesh never looked more stark. The state assembly on Monday witnessed the strange sight of the ministers storming the well of the House. What’s worse, these ministers from the Telangana region were protesting against their own boss – chief minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who on Saturday had asked the assembly speaker N Manohar for permission to move a resolution seeking to reject the state Reorganisation Bill sent by the President to the House.
If you needed any more proof that the government in Andhra Pradesh is a lameduck government, you need not look beyond the state assembly. Cabinet ministers conveniently forgot that they have taken oath under the Constitution to serve the state of Andhra Pradesh, not a specific region. If Kiran Reddy is at fault, so are his colleagues from all three regions.
Deputy chief minister Damodar Rajanarasimha asked for the dismissal of the chief minister. Sitting at his home in Banjara Hills, he told me that he and other Telangana MLAs have no faith in Reddy’s leadership and that he must go. Rajanarasimha, who would be a contender for the top job, is predicting major political action in the next week. He and Reddy have not spoken to each other for the last six months, an indication of how deeply divided the state already is.
Rajanarasimha’s demand was echoed by other MLAs from the Telangana region. Former Congressman, who is now an MLA on the Telangana Rashtra Samiti ticket, J Krishna Rao said, “He has to say sorry to the House, he has to take back the resolution and then he has to step down.”
Panchayati Raj minister Jana Reddy wrote identical letters to the Governor, Assembly speaker and Chairman of the Legislative Council, pointing out that the state cabinet has never discussed moving such a resolution and therefore the demand ought to be rejected forthwith.
Former speaker of the Andhra Pradesh assembly K R Suresh Reddy also wrote to his successor, arguing that timing of the resolution is “suspicious” and that Manohar should reject the notice given by the CM. “The Leader of the House along with the Speaker is responsible to ensure smooth conduct of business. But here the CM, by this action, has thrown the House into pandemonium at a time, when such important debate is being conducted on an important issue,” said Suresh Reddy.
Under the rules, any member can move a resolution under Rule 77. “I myself have done so. I therefore cannot question the CM’s right to do so. But whether he can do so as the Leader of the House which means the leader of the government, is questionable,” said Jayaprakash Narayan, Loksatta party president and MLA.
But it is not as if Kiran Reddy is short of support. The Seemandhra lobby of 175 MLAs is backing his move, cutting across party lines. YSR Congress and Telugu Desam have already backed a move to move a resolution in favour of united Andhra Pradesh. The strategy to force voting is to show to the world that numerically speaking, those demanding division of Andhra Pradesh are not in a majority and therefore New Delhi’s unilateral decision to bifurcate the state cannot be entertained.
The state assembly has time till January 30 to discuss the Bill and return it to the President. Given the acrimony and the divide, it is highly unlikely that the House will see any meaningful debate this week.