Andhra Pradesh stood on the threshold of fresh political turbulence after a majority of elected representatives from Telangana, including 11 Ministers, submitted their resignations to put pressure on the Centre to make an early announcement in favour of a separate State.
The one-line resignation letters handed over by them to the presiding officers of both Houses of the State Legislature had a more ominous ring than last year as they were written in the format prescribed under the rules.
The Congress began a fire-fighting exercise with AICC general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad requesting the legislators not to take any decision in haste as the Centre was trying to arrive at consensus on the “sensitive” issue, while Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy met his Ministers and asked them to discharge their duties.
Of the 119 MLAs from Telangana (one seat is vacant), as many as 81 MLAs, a dozen Members of Parliament, including one from the Rajya Sabha, and 17 MLCs belonging to the Congress, the TDP and others put in their papers. The Congress government will, however, get a breather for at least five days since no decision can be taken on the resignations until the return of Assembly Speaker N. Manohar from the United States on July 9.
Minister for Panchayat Raj K. Jana Reddy, who spearheaded the Congress leaders' resignations, denied that their action was aimed at creating a political or constitutional crisis. Emboldened by the dramatic turn of events, the Telangana Joint Action Committee (JAC) called a 48-hour bandh for July 5 and 6.
The former APCC president, K. Kesava Rao, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, submitted his letter to the Officer on Special Duty to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, while the Lok Sabha members met Speaker Meira Kumar and personally handed over their letters. These members are Ponnam Prabhakar, M. Jagannath, G. Vivekanand, G. Sukhender Reddy, P. Balram Naik, K. Rajagopal Reddy and Siricilla Rajaiah. Two others — Madhu Yaskhi Goud and Suresh Shetkar — faxed their letters while two TDP MPs, Nama Nageswara Rao and Ramesh Rathod, will give their letters on Tuesday.
Lok Sabha Secretary-General T.K. Viswanathan told The Hindu that no decision had been taken by the Speaker on the letters and added there was no time limit for deciding on them.
The former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, P.D.T. Achary, said normally the Speaker would ensure that the resignation letter was in the format prescribed by the Lok Sabha and personally meet the member to make sure that the decision (to quit) was taken voluntarily.
About those letters sent by fax, he said the member concerned would be asked to appear before her in person and she would record whether the decision was voluntary.
Mr. Kesava Rao dismissed criticism that the “resignation” was a “gimmick” and said they were identifying themselves with the Telangana people. “The Centre on December 9, 2009 virtually announced Telangana. But it has not been implemented. Now, we are helpless before the Telangana people,” he said.
To a question, he said the MPs could consider withdrawing their letters if there was a “concrete assurance” from the Congress leadership on the formation of Telangana within a time frame.