President’s Rule in Andhra Pradesh was the only option left before the Union Cabinet after the resignation of Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy, who also quit the Congress protesting against the bifurcation of the State. With most of the members of the Legislative Assembly divided on geographical lines, and party loyalty counting for nothing, no government would have been able to get adequate numbers for a vote of confidence. Moreover, with the election to the Assembly due to be held along with the Lok Sabha polls soon, none of the senior State leaders of the Congress could have been very enthusiastic about the prospect of serving the remainder of the term as an ineffectual Chief Minister. With the model code of conduct bound to become operative with the announcement of the election schedule, a new government would have been left without much leeway for even routine administrative decision-making. Thus, other than bringing together unwilling, disparate elements in a weak, ineffectual government in Andhra Pradesh, the Congress leadership had no option. President’s Rule suggested itself to the Centre, and the Assembly could only be kept in suspended animation.

President’s Rule in Andhra Pradesh opens up another possibility for the Centre and the Congress: holding Assembly elections at a later date, and not simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls. Unlike in the case of the previous round of state-formation exercises involving Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh, the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh has been left to coincide with the parliamentary and State Assembly elections. Depending on the timing of the presidential assent and the notification of the appointed date for the formation of Telangana, elections will have to be held either to the composite Andhra Pradesh Assembly or to the two assemblies of Seemandhra and Telangana. Elections to two separate assemblies may well take some time to organise, but it does make political sense. The process of first forming a government for Andhra Pradesh in its current form out of the composite Assembly, and later for Telangana and Seemandhra after bifurcating the Assembly, can thus be avoided. However, while President’s Rule can be justified on the ground that there was in Andhra Pradesh a “situation of impasse” as specified in the Bommai judgment, the postponement of the Assembly election will have no such justification. An alternative government might not have been possible from the current Assembly, but this in itself is no argument for postponing the Assembly election. Whether or not Telangana comes into being before the Lok Sabha polls, the Centre and the Election Commission need to take the most democratic course — which is to put a popular government in place without delay.

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