An existential threat looms over the fate of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council (APLC) more than a decade after its revival by then Congress Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy in 2007. This after the YSRCP government headed by his son Jagan Mohan Reddy adopted a resolution in the state Assembly for the scrapping of the Legislative Council on January 27. The state government has forwarded the resolution to the Parliament for ratification.
By doing so, Jagan Reddy throws the ball in the BJPâ€™s court. The survival of the Legislative Council rests solely with the BJP-led Union government, politically and legally as well.
The Legislative Council in the undivided Andhra Pradesh came into existence on July 1, 1958 and ceased to exist in 1985, when it was abolished by the CM and TDP founder NT Rama Rao.
Now, in the game of one-upmanship, the YSRCP has once again decided to do away with the Council, which is presently dominated by its rival TDP. In the 58 member-Upper House, the TDP has 28, YSRC 9, BJP 2, PDF 5, independents 3 and eight are nominated members. Three vacancies are yet to be filled.
Since his assent to power, Jagan has decentralised Andhraâ€™s capital, revised power purchase agreements (PPAs) made with independent power producers during the previous TDP regime and initiated re-tendering process for the Polavaram project.
The TDP, which is weak in the Assembly, remained helpless to check Jaganâ€™s moves. But in the Legislative Council Naidu, with his manoeuvring skills, could continue to resist Jagan with an overwhelming majority of members. The YSRCP governmentâ€™s Bills that met with the opposition resistance in the Council include those relating to unbundling of the capital in Amaravati into executive capital, legislative capital and judicial capital; introduction of English as a medium of instruction in government schools and the constitution of separate commissions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The move to abolish Andhraâ€™s Upper House was therefore Jagan Mohan Reddy attempt to decimate the oppositionâ€™s space in the Council by abrogating it.
BJPâ€™s grand political strategy
Naidu who was an ally of the NDA during its first term, fighting the elections together with the BJP in 2014. But by snubbing the TDP over the Special Status issue, BJP pitted Jagan against Naidu, resulting in the latterâ€™s break-up with the NDA a year before the general elections in 2019.
After coming to power with a landslide victory, Jagan Mohan Reddyâ€™s YSRCP hoped to receive patronage from the NDA 2.0. However, the YSRCP governmentâ€™s decisions- shifting the capital from Amaravati, revision of PPAs and re-tendering of Polavaram projectâ€”did not find favour with the BJP. Besides, the BJP is keen to find a space in the stateâ€™s bipolar politics by aligning with Jana Senaâ€™s founder and actor Pawan Kalyan.
BJP Andhra State President Kanna Lakshminarayana and Pawan speaking at a joint press conference in Vijayawada after entering into an alliance assured agitating farmers in Amaravati that they would not allow the capital to move out of the present place.
The issues concerning Andhraâ€™s capital and Legislative Council are part of the BJPâ€™s larger game plan. It wants to assure the sections sailing with the TDP that it is only the BJP and Jana Sena that can check Jaganâ€™s hawkish postures and safeguard their interests. The BJPâ€™s mission cannot be accomplished if either the capital shifting or the abolition of the Council is materialised.
Legal expert Jandhyala Ravi Shankar has said the Council will continue to exist, despite the Assemblyâ€™s resolution, and until Parliament gives its consent to its abolition. Article 169 (1) of the Constitution provides an elbow room for the Centre either to accept or reject the resolution of the respective state Assemblies for creation or abolition of the Council, he maintained.
Getting Rajya Sabha nod an uphill task?
Itâ€™s not the Andhra Assemblyâ€™s resolution on the Legislative Council alone that is awaiting the Parliamentâ€™s approval. States like Rajasthan and Assam, have already sent their resolutions seeking the creation of Legislative Councils to the Centre and a Parliamentary Standing Committee has been constituted to study the requests of the state governments, BJPâ€™s spokesperson Kota Sai Krishna told TNM. Besides, the BJP and its allies alone cannot decide on the issue since it lacks adequate numbers in the Rajya Sabha to clear the proposal. It is unlikely that the AP Assemblyâ€™s resolution can be pushed through in the Rajya Sabha without help from Congress, Kota said. â€śWe are not obligated to realise Jaganâ€™s wish. At the same time, we are also not prejudiced against his government,â€ť he said.
The Congress, according to its state working president N Tulasi Reddy, is averse to abandoning the Council which was revived by its leader Rajasekhar Reddy in 2007. Naidu, in all likelihood, may lobby with the Congress, and try to foil Jagan by blocking the resolution in the Rajya Sabha.
Following the 2019 Assembly Elections, the Congress saw a number of its members being poached by the YSRCP and moving to the ruling party. Trying to bail itself out of its identity crisis, the grand old party is trying hard to contain YSRCPâ€™s growth in the state by opposing major decisions like capital shifting.
Gali Nagaraja is a freelance journalist who writes on the two Telugu states.