For the first time in almost two years, Andhra Pradesh finally has the chance to watch its state Assembly, complete with the entire Opposition in attendance, in session. Back in 2017, the then Opposition, YSR Congress, had decided to boycott the Assembly in protest against the then Speaker’s inaction on its pleas to disqualify 23 legislators who defected to the TDP. Against this backdrop, and given the overwhelming mandate the YSR Congress has secured in the recent elections, there are high expectations on the 15th Legislative Assembly.
Unfortunately, the behaviour of the ruling and opposition members on the second day of the first session of the Assembly has poured cold water on any such hopes. They managed to ruin the day of the new Speaker Tammineni Sitaram and worse, turn their congratulations to him into an unsavoury verbal duel. It is regrettable that Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy himself couldn’t resist the temptation of taking a dig at the TDP for its past misdeeds while wishing the Speaker the very best. Inevitably, the Leader of the Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu crossed swords. This was expected, but what was not was the TDP chief’s refusal to escort the Speaker to the Chair upon his unanimous election. His excuse: an ‘improper’ invitation to do the honours along with the chief minister. Naidu sent his deputy to accompany the Speaker that prompted a ruling party member to use a highly objectionable word. The House witnessed hairsplitting arguments on the definition of the word. Is this how one congratulates the Speaker on his first day in office?
The Speaker, a six-time MLA, to his credit, set an example to the members with his conduct. Taking to heart neither the TDP slight nor tolerating the ruling party’s loudmouth, he reminded the members that people pay `6 lakh a day for the session so that they can discuss public issues and urged them to uphold the dignity of the House. We can only hope his words have the desired effect. It is essential that we have meaningful debates as the government has key issues like creation of new districts on the agenda.