Amid the ongoing political churning in Andhra Pradesh, with the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and its ally BJP, hurling the choicest of epithets at each other, what has escaped notice is the role of the Opposition.
Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, chief of the main Opposition party, the YSR Congress, has embarked on a statewide padayatra and completed 100 days Wednesday. It is understandable that he wants to build momentum in what is widely believed to be an election year, but what is incomprehensible is his decision to boycott the Assembly. The son of late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy boycotted the last Assembly session ostensibly in protest against the Speaker’s inaction on his party’s petitions to disqualify legislators who had defected to the TDP in the aftermath of the 2014 elections.
The exodus of over 20 MLAs from his party, while dealing a blow to him politically, also raises significant constitutional questions such as whether the Speaker could turn a blind eye to the incident and if it is in violation of the anti-defection law. Jagan has been insisting on their resignation, citing the current bizarre scenario in which the legislators continue to be technically with the YSRC in the Assembly.
In fact, a few of them have even been inducted into the Chandrababu Naidu Cabinet. Nonetheless, is boycotting Assembly sessions a solution? Of the 175 members in the Assembly, the YSRC now has 44 while the rest, including the MLAs who defected, belong to the TDP-BJP. In other words, minus the YSRC, there is no Opposition in the Assembly.
In a democracy, it is the responsibility of the Opposition to question the government. And the forum for doing so, at the state level, is the Assembly. Without the Opposition, the ruling party can push through any legislation. It has happened during the Emergency era when the Indira Gandhi government stamped out the Opposition. The YSRC must attend the budget session of the Assembly beginning March 5 and stop behaving irresponsibly.