The disqualification of 15 MLAs from the Assembly by Speaker Nadendla Manohar on Saturday has high political significance since it will neither trigger by-elections nor affect the stability of the Congress government.
In fact, Congress leaders are treating it as a double bounty for their party. Firstly, disqualification of nine Congress MLAs has almost removed any fear of the government being voted out of power if a no confidence motion is tabled. Secondly, there is no fear of a rout as it is highly unlikely for the Election Commission to order by-elections to fill these vacancies as the general elections are less than a year away.
For over a year, a number of Congress and TDP MLAs continued to flock to YSR Congress and participated in protest programmes against the government organised by the latter. The Congress had just a razor thin majority in the 294-member House and had no guarantee about getting the support of the rebel MLAs.
It was reduced to a minority when nine Congress MLAs backed the no confidence motion. The government survived after the main opposition, TDP, took a neutral stand during the no-trust motion prompting the YSRC to accuse the two parties of indulging in political match fixing.
After these disqualifications, the Congress has a strength of 146 members against 155 earlier. But, any threat to its existence has abated and it may survive a no confidence motion since the effective strength of the House is also down to 279 and the half-way mark reduced to just 140. The combined tally of the opposition parties is now 132.
The Congress party is happy that disqualification process concluded only after June 3, the day on which the present House was constituted in 2009. Had they been disqualified before June 3, by-elections would have been ordered, an eventuality that the ruling party did not want because of its poor track record.