The curious case of Telugu lawmakers and speakers
On the other side of the ‘Telugu divide’, Telangana assembly Speaker S Madhusudan Chary faced allegations of bias after 12 of 15 TDP MLAs defected to TRS.
Post-bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, 23 YSRCP MLAs defected to TDP in the last three years. Speaker K Shivprasad Rao has faced accusations of bias from YSRCP for not considering the defections as ‘piecemeal’ which attracted disqualification under the anti-defection law. The defections began weeks after Chandrababu Naidu became chief minister. At one point, four YSRCP MLAs became members of Naidu’s cabinet even before quitting the party. YSRCP chief Jaganmohan Reddy has alleged that the defections were masterminded by Naidu.
On the other side of the ‘Telugu divide’, Telangana assembly Speaker S Madhusudan Chary faced allegations of bias after 12 of 15 TDP MLAs defected to TRS. The TDP was left with just three MLAs but the TDP contention was that only eight TDP MLAs crossed over initially and hence attracted disqualification. Though TDP floor leader Dayakar Rao petitioned the Speaker against the defection, he too defected soon with another MLA. Later, two more MLAs joined them. TRS, which had won 63 seats in 2014, now has 90 MLAs and Telangana CM K Chandrasekar Rao has appointed one of the 12 defectors a minister too.
Contrary to the states, Speakers are at the receiving end when the scene shifts to Parliament. Sumitra Mahajan has been forced to adjourn the House following the protest of TRS MPs on the one hand and TDP and YSRCP on the other since last Friday.
The latter two want her to act on their notices for motion of no-confidence against the Narendra Modi government, while the TRS protest has prevented order in the House. The no-confidence motion itself is the result of a one-upmanship between the Andhra parties facing polls in 2019 along with the Lok Sabha. The noconfidence motion poses no threat to the Modi government but the matter has still not been resolved due to protests, leading to criticism of the Speaker. Opposition parties have alleged that TRS was ‘’working with the government’ to prevent the motion from being taken up. Some constitutional experts have pointed to the powers the Speaker had to ensure the motion is debated and voted upon, although she has refrained from enforcing the provision.
It’s not the first time either that ‘Telugu bidda’ have given a hard time to a Lok Sabha Speaker. In the Fifteenth Lok Sabha, Mahajan’s predecessor Meira Kumar too had a tough time trying to manage MPs from undivided Andhra who walked into the Well of the House to thwart the introduction of the bill for bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. The ruckus culminated with Congress MP L Rajagopal using a pepper spray in the Well of the House to protest against the state’s division. 16 MPs from AP belonging to the ruling Congress had to be suspended before the bill could be introduced.