Andhra assembly - minimum debate, maximum ruckus

Hyderabad, June 22 (IANS) The present legislative assembly in Andhra Pradesh may go down in the state's history as the most acrimonious one with minimum debate, maximum ruckus and the highest number of disqualifications.

The political chaos that the state plunged into in 2009 following the death of chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in a helicopter crash has reflected in every session during the last three and a half years of Congress rule.

Pandemonium, acrimonious wrangling and suspensions have became the rule of the day in every session, with hardly any debate on people's issues. The sessions became a mere formality to pass budgets or bills, mostly sans any debate.

The budget session, which concluded Friday, was no different. Statistics show the house proceedings were conducted for only 57.29 hours during the 20-day session in two spells. It should have normally functioned for approximately 140 hours. It costs Rs.2 crore a day to run the house. Therefore, Rs.40 crore was effectively lost during the budget session.

Like in the previous sessions, the assembly lost much of its time to the ruckus over the demand for separate statehood to Telangana. The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) stalled the proceedings demanding that the house pass a resolution. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) backed the demand, which was turned down by the government on the ground that the centre was dealing with the issue.

The second phase, which began June 10, could not take up debates on any issue. The only time the house conducted some business was when Speaker Nadendla Manohar suspended TRS members to facilitate the passing of some bills.

The first phase in March also witnessed the government defeating a no-trust motion, tabled by TRS, thanks to the main opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) abstaining. There was hardly any debate and even the state budget was presented after suspending the TRS members.

A nearly two-and-a-half-month gap was given so that the departmentally related standing committees could study budgetary allocations to various sectors and submit their reports. This exercise, undertaken for the first time in the state's history, came a cropper with the house not taking up any debate on the reports and hurriedly passing the budget on Friday.

The main opposition TDP criticized the Congress for "running away" from debates on issues like electricity crisis, farmers' problems, price rise and the law and order situation.

"The ruling party suspended TRS members whenever it required to pass bills but at other times allowed them to create a ruckus so that no issue came up for a debate," said TDP leader E. Dayakar Rao.

Congress leaders, however, blamed the opposition for not using the platform to debate the issues and claimed that they were always ready for a discussion on any issue.

Though there are still 10 months for the term of the current assembly to expire, political observers believe the budget session was its last major session. The government may convene a brief winter session in December-January to meet the constitutional obligation.

After the centre's Dec 9, 2009, announcement initiating the process for forming a Telangana state, the house had witnessed mass resignations of the legislators belonging to the Andhra and Rayalaseema regions.

When the centre put the process on hold citing the need for more consultations, there were resignations from Telangana too. All 10 TRS legislators and some belonging to the TDP and the Congress who supported the demand for a separate state forced by-elections.

The ruling party also faced a revolt by 17 legislators loyal to the YSR Congress party of Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, the late chief minister's son. They backed the no-trust motion moved by the TDP in 2011, leading to their disqualification by the speaker. The YSR Congress won almost all by-elections.

The present assembly also holds the distinction of maximum number of disqualifications. The speaker earlier this month disqualified 15 legislators - nine of the Congress and six of the TDP. Last year, the speaker had disqualified 19 legislators, including 17 belonging to the Congress, who had joined the YSR Congress.

(Mohammed Shafeeq can be contacted at m.shafeeq@ians.in)

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