Andhra speaker disqualifies 15 Congress, TDP rebels

Hyderabad, June 8 (IANS) Finally acting against the rebels, Andhra Pradesh assembly speaker Saturday disqualified 15 members of the legislative assembly belonging to the ruling Congress and the main opposition TDP for violating party whips.

Speaker N. Manohar, who heard the petitions moved by the two parties during the last few weeks, announced his decision Saturday evening. Nine of those disqualified belong to the Congress while six others are members of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP).

The speaker took the action under Rule 2(1)(b) of the Tenth Schedule of the constitution for voting against the party whip.

The disqualifications have brought down the strength of Congress to 146 in 294-member house. However, with 16 vacancies in the house, the Congress government is in a comfortable position.

The ruling party needs 140 members for majority in the effective strength of 278. With less than a year to go for the assembly elections, the by-elections to the vacant seats are not likely.

The nine Congress lawmakers who have been disqualified are: Alla Nani, G. Ravi Kumar, D. Chandrasekara Reddy, Jogi Ramesh, Perni Nani, B. Sivaprasada Reddy, M. Rajesh, S. Krishna Ranga Rao and P. Ramchandra Reddy.

The disqualified TDP rebels are: Amarnath Reddy, Praveen Kumar Reddy, Y. Balanagi Reddy, Kodali Srivenkateswara Rao, Taneti Vanitha and P. Sairaj.

The two parties had sought the disqualification of nine legislators each for violating party whips during the voting on no-confidence motion moved by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) against the government in the assembly in March.

The legislators, majority of whom have switched loyalties to the YSR Congress party, supported the no-trust motion.

The TDP had issued a whip to all its legislators to remain neutral during the voting.

The speaker has not yet taken a decision on the disqualification of three other TDP legislators - Chinnam Ramakotaiah, K. Harishwar Reddy and S. Venugopalachari. During the hearing, they had told the speaker that they did not receive the party whip.

The speaker disqualified the legislators two days before the second phase of the budget session, beginning Monday.

The speaker said the TDP petition for disqualification of another rebel Gangula Kamlakar was also pending. The opposition party had submitted the petition three days ago for disqualification of Kamlakar, who recently joined the TRS.

The number of legislators disqualified in the present assembly has gone up to 34, which is a record in the state's history.

Last year, the speaker had disqualified 19 legislators, including 17 belonging to the Congress party, who had joined the YSR Congress.

With the latest disqualifications, the strength of TDP in the house has also come down to 79. The TRS and the YSR Congress have 17 seats each, Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen seven, Communist Party of India four, Bharatiya Janata Party three, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) one and Lok Satta one. There are three independents.

The YSR Congress has criticised the delay in disqualifying the legislators. Party leader M.V. Mysoora Reddy said the delay was due to the ruling party's fear of losing the by-elections.

The TDP has also criticised the speaker for not disqualifying all nine of its legislators as sought by it.

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