As Jagan looks to fill MLC posts, opposition calls it volte-face
The YSR Congress party government in Andhra Pradesh, which strongly pitched for abolition of state legislative council till a few months ago, describing it as a rehabilitation centre for defeated candidates and a burden on state exchequer, might have brushed the issue under the carpet.
Even as a resolution adopted by the state legislative assembly on January 27 this year, seeking abolition of the upper house is pending before the Union home ministry for consideration, the Jagan Mohan Reddy government has started filling up vacancies arising in the council.
On Friday, the chief minister gave an assurance to Balli Kalyan Chakravarthy, son of former Tirupati MP late Balli Durgaprasada Rao that he would be nominated as member of legislative council (MLC) at the earliest.
Initially, Chakravarthy was tipped to be the party candidate for the by-elections to the Tirupati parliamentary constituency following his father’s death, but Jagan changed his mind and decided to give the MP ticket to his physiotherapist Dr Gurumurthy.
“Jagan has promised to send me to the legislative council whenever a vacancy arises and sought my cooperation for the victory of the party candidate in the by-elections to Tirupati MP seat,” Chakravarthy said.
Telugu Desam Party spokesperson and women’s wing president Vangalapudi Anitha wondered whether the chief minister had withdrawn his proposal to abolish the legislative council.
She recalled how Jagan had strongly argued in favour of abolition of the legislative council in his speech in the assembly in January. She said Jagan had described the legislative council as meaningless and a hurdle for the government in passing crucial bills.
The chief minister had pointed out how the TDP, with its majority in the upper house, had stalled the state government’s bills seeking to create three capitals on grounds of decentralising the administration and also the one on introduction of English medium in the government schools.
Jagan also argued that the government was incurring Rs 60 crore annual expenditure on the council and a poor state like AP could not afford it.
“Why is the chief minister promising his party leaders with MLC posts now? Has he changed his mind on the abolition of the council?” she asked.
In fact, three YSRC leaders have entered the state legislative council against the existing vacancies in the last six months. While former minister Dokka Manikya Varaprasad, who resigned from the MLC post which he got during the TDP regime, got re-elected to the council, two other YSRC leaders – Pandula Ravindra Babu and Zakia Khanum-- were nominated to the council under the governor’s quota.
The YSRC enjoys an overwhelming majority of 151 in a 175-member assembly, but does not have enough strength in the 58-member legislative council. While the TDP still enjoys the majority with 30 members (including four nominated), the YSRC has 13 (including four nominated) members.
Of the remaining, the Progressive Democratic Front has five members and the BJP has two, while there are three independents, besides five vacancies.
However, the YSRC is likely to get the majority in the council by April/May, 2021, when many of the sitting members complete their term. It can win five MLC seats under MLAs’ quota and three seats under governor’s quota. Besides, there would be 10 vacancies under local bodies’ quota and the YSRC is expecting to win all of them.
With this, the strength of the YSRC in the state legislative council will go up to 31. In the next two years, the party can win another 10-12 seats in the council.
Senior YSRC leader and chief whip in legislative council, Ummareddy Venkateshwarlu, said the decision to abolish the legislative council was pending with the Union home ministry. “Till such time, the council continues to be in operation and whenever vacancies arise, the government has to fill up. What is wrong in it?” he asked.