The ruling Congress in Andhra Pradesh is said to be in a big dilemma over seeking disqualification of 16 of its MLAs who defied the party whip and voted in favour of the no-confidence motion against the Kiran Kumar Reddy government in the Assembly two days ago.
Though for the record the party says it will move for disqualification, in reality it is said to be concerned over the prospect of facing by-elections to 24 seats in one go, at a time when it is facing rough weather in Telangana region over the statehood issue and due to the Jaganmohan Reddy factor in Andhra-Rayalaseema regions.
By-elections will become inevitable to these 16 seats currently held by the Congress and another by the Praja Rajyam, if these MLAs are disqualified for violating their respective party whips.
Though another Congress MLA defied the whip and abstained from voting in the no-confidence motion, the party is in no mood to proceed against him now, informed sources said.
Already seven vacancies exist in the House, caused by the death of one MLA and resignation of six others last month, for which by-elections should be held within six months. Out of the six seats in Telangana, where by-elections need to be held, the Congress till recently held two while its ’associate’ member held another.
It will be a miracle if the Congress wins even one seat in Telangana as it faces strong antagonism in the region for the “dilly-dallying” on the statehood issue, political observers say. The mood is also not said to be favourable for the party in the Andhra-Rayalaseema regions either because of the ‘Jagan factor’, they say.
It was probably the reason that made Mr. Jagan throw an open challenge to the Congress to disqualify the MLAs who voted against the government and go for by-elections.
The stakes will be too high for the Congress in all the regions as it is the party in power, the observers say.
Already, its own strength has been reduced to just 137 in the 294-member House following resignations and defections by MLAs.
Defeat in a majority number of seats - as the current trend indicates - will be a loss of face not only for the party but also the Chief Minister who claims to be enjoying the “confidence of people” in full measure.
The tide may, however, turn against Mr. Jagan, the Kadapa MP, if he is arrested by the CBI in any of the cases it is probing against him, the observers feel.
The Congress is precisely waiting for that to happen so that the ground becomes clear in the event of by—polls, they say. Even if the disqualification proceedings are initiated now, it may be a while before the Speaker delivers his verdict as a set procedure has to be followed.
That would leave enough breathing space for the party to hone its strategies against Mr. Jagan, Congress leaders hope.
State Deputy Chief Minister Damodara Rajanarasimha, Pradesh Congress Committee president Botsa Satyanarayana and five other ministers, who were closeted in a meeting with the Chief Minister this morning, wanted him to act against the rebel MLAs and petition the Assembly Speaker at once seeking their disqualification.
Mr. Kiran Kumar, however, told them that a decision would be taken on the disqualification issue only after the Congress high command gave the green signal.
AICC general secretary, in charge of AP affairs, Ghulam Nabi Azad is currently abroad and the Chief Minister is expected to take up the issue with him only on his return, party sources said.
For the record, Mr. Botsa Satyanarayana told PTI after the meeting that there was no question of sparing the defiant MLAs. “We can’t let them go scot free when they have openly defied the party whip and voted against the government,” he said, adding that they were also ready to face the by-elections.