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Somnath's call for right to recall MLAs

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the creation of a linguistic State for the Telugus, the golden jubilee celebrations of the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly began on Saturday with a candid admission by political leaders that standards in the legislature had fallen.

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, who inaugurated the celebrations, proposed the right to recall as a remedy to set right those MLAs who did not measure up to the people's expectations. Chief Minister Y. S. Rajasekhara Reddy said it was time for a "courageous and honest self-analysis" as to where society was headed for while Leader of the Opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu called for political reforms to strengthen Parliamentary democracy.

A discordant note was struck by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), which has been campaigning for a separate State, when its 26 MLAs boycotted the historic event. They held that the present Government was rubbing salt into the wounds of the Telangana people who were opposed to the integration of the State.

Protest

The faction-ridden TRS could not, however, present a united picture in its much-hyped protest. Serious differences cropped up when the dissident MLAs questioned the issuance of a whip asking them to keep away from the seminar addressed by Mr. Chatterjee when it was not part of the Assembly proceedings. As many as 29 ex-MLAs listed for felicitation belonged to the Telangana region, they said.

These protests did not cast a shadow on the celebrations. On the other hand, it was their day in the sun for the surviving members of the first Assembly of the integrated Andhra Pradesh. Led by the 100-year-old P. Venkataramanappa, nearly 40 ex-MLAs were felicitated by Mr. Somnath Chatterjee, Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy and Mr. Chandrababu Naidu in the stately hall of the old Assembly building which was bedecked with flowers.

Four former Speakers-- Agarala Eswara Reddy, G. Narayan Rao, P. Ramachandra Reddy and Y. Ramakrishnudu-- were also honoured at the function which was marked by nostalgia for most of the veteran legislators. The Lok Sabha Speaker recalled that the first sitting of the Assembly on December 3, 1956, debated a call-attention motion moved by Vavilala Gopalakrishnaiah, the venerated freedom-fighter, expressing concern over the steep increase of essential commodities.

Poor attendance

In contrast to this spirit, a special evening session of the 294-member Assembly to commemorate the event turned out to be a lacklustre and, on one occasion, an acrimonious affair. Hardly one-third of the members were present when the Chief Minister and other leaders spoke on progress achieved by Andhra Pradesh in the last 50 years.

The Leader of the Opposition himself opted out of the debate in favour of his senior party colleague Ch. Rajeswara Rao.

Making a strong pitch for an integrated State, Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy said AP was created after a long and difficult struggle by the Telugus against the suppression by the Nizams and the British.

Although the State had come a long way since 1956 in terms of literacy, agricultural production, road network, power supply, irrigation and health care access, there was need to introspect whether "we have been able to wipe tears from the eyes of every citizen".

The Chief Minister did not miss the opportunity to obliquely criticise the Telugu Desam saying all important development indicators like the overall growth rate, human resource development and foreign direct investment had declined during the past one decade.

The debate took a sour turn when Akbaruddin Owaisi (MIM) strongly objected to Mr. Rajeswara Rao (TDP) describing the Nizam as `an opportunist'.