Andhra’s upper house move may face Parliament hurdle
Chief minister Jaganmohan Reddy’s plans for abolishing the upper house of Andhra Pradesh assembly or the legislative council may face hurdles in Parliament with both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress pushing for upper Houses of assembly in other states. A parliament panel has also advocated a national policy on such issues.
The Andhra Pradesh assembly on Monday adopted a statutory resolution for abolishing the Council days after two bills seeking the creation of three capitals for the state and on the introduction of English medium in government schools were blocked in the upper House. The resolution would be sent to the Centre, which will have to introduce a bill in Parliament for the Council’s abolition.
Parliamentary officials pointed out two bills on the formation of legislative councils in Congress-ruled Rajasthan and BJP-ruled Assam are pending before Parliament for years. Then Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government and the previous Congress government in Assam moved Parliament in 2013 for setting up legislative councils in their states. According to the Constitution’s Article 169, a legislative council can be created or dissolved only through an act of Parliament. The officials said although Reddy’s YRS Congress Party (YSRCP) has supported the BJP-led central government, any hasty decision on the Andhra Pradesh assembly’s resolution is unlikely.
A Parliamentary panel has examined the two bills related to the creation of legislative councils in Rajasthan and Assam. In its report on Rajasthan’s proposal in December 2013, the panel said, “There is a need to evolve a national policy with regard to creation/abolition of Legislation Council particularly in regard to the fact that the status of the second chamber cannot be of temporary in nature depending on the mood of the Government of the day nor can be abolished once created, only at the whims and fancy of a newly elected Government in the State.”
The panel reiterated its stand in its report on Assam as well in February 2014. The Andhra Pradesh legislative council was abolished in 1985 before it was revived in 2007 during the Congress rule. Legislative councils in Punjab, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu were abolished in 1969 and 1986. In 2010, Parliament passed a bill for the revival of the legislative council in Tamil Nadu but it was not notified.
Subsequently, in 2012, the state government proposed to repeal the 2010 law. The Constitution’s Article 168 initially provided for legislative councils in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Bombay, Tamil Nadu, Mysore, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, and West Bengal.
A BJP leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on one hand, they want a legislative council in Rajasthan and on the other hand, how can they support a move to abolish it in Andhra Pradesh. A Congress strategist ruled out any possibility of supporting the Reddy government’s proposal.
Reddy has defended his decision plan to abolish the council saying the Constitution does not say that there should be compulsorily an upper House in every state. The YSRCP enjoys an overwhelming majority of 151 in the assembly’s 175-member lower House.