VIJAYAWADA: The first session of the 15th Legislative Assembly of Andhra Pradesh, which was expected to be a smooth affair, saw sparks flying between the treasury benches and the opposition on the second day itself over defection of YSR Congress MLAs to the ruling TDP in the previous Assembly and ‘non-adherence’ to democratic practices.
Referring to the defections ‘engineered’ by the TDP regime, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy came up with a startling revelation that some TDP MLAs were in touch with his party. He, however, did not disclose the number of such MLAs.
The agenda of the House for Thursday was election of the Speaker and it was expected to be a smooth affair. After announcing the unanimous election of Amadalavalasa MLA Tammineni Sitaram as the Speaker, pro tem Speaker Sambangi Venkata China Appala Naidu urged leaders of all the parties in the House to accompany the Speaker to the Chair. Jagan and his colleagues, K Atchannaidu of the TDP and Jana Sena’s lone member Rapaka Varaprasad responded.
Initiating the proceedings, in his maiden speech in the House in the capacity of Chief Minister, Jagan congratulated Sitaram and hailed his leadership qualities.
Digging the past, he found fault with the previous TDP regime for encouraging defection of 23 YSRC MLAs and making four of them ministers. The YSRC chief further said some of his party leaders suggested that he take away five of the 23 TDP MLAs so that Chandrababu Naidu would lose the status of Leader of Opposition in the House.
“I will never resort to such an act as there would be no difference between me and Naidu. I will allow MLAs from other parties into the YSRC only after they tender resignation to their parent party,’’ he asserted, and suggested that the Speaker disqualify MLAs in case they defected without first resigning.
“In the previous Assembly, we saw politics without values and occasions when the Leader of Opposition was not even allowed to speak. We witnessed poaching of MLAs from the Opposition with Cabinet berth allurements. We also saw blatant violation of anti-defection laws and even the eleventh hour amendment of the rules to disallow no-confidence motion against the Speaker. We boycotted the Assembly demanding disqualification of the defected MLAs, but it was not done. Such unprincipled practices, if followed, democracy cannot survive. I sincerely pray that the established norms of the House be followed,” he said.
Jagan described the TDP getting only 23 MLAs and three MPs in the recent elections as the best script by the God and a lesson taught to that party by the people. In the previous Assembly, the TDP had bought over 23 MLAs and three MPs and, ironically, they could only win the same number of MLA and MP seats this time, he said.
When Naidu’s turn came, he maintained that he had no intention to rake up any controversy as the occasion was to congratulate the newly-elected Speaker. However, the YSRC members found fault with Naidu for not accompanying the Speaker to his Chair in his capacity as the Opposition leader. Naidu and the TDP members claim there was no proper communication from the government on the election of Speaker.
At one point of time, Naidu expressed his dissatisfaction over the Chief Minister’s ‘disparaging’ remarks against the Opposition in his first speech. Recalling former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy switching party within four days after getting elected on Reddy Congress, Naidu asked Jagan to refer to history before pointing fingers at others. “While claiming to be heir to YSR, you should keep the issue in mind and admit that your father too made mistakes,’’ Naidu asserted.
“We waited till yesterday for communication from the government seeking our support for the election of the Speaker. But, we did not get any information and there was no particular invitation for me to accompany the Speaker to his chair. How can I attend an event without being invited? Do you think I don’t have self-respect? Check the records. Despite not getting an invite, I have sent the party deputy leader for accompanying the Speaker,” Naidu said.
Rebutting Naidu’s claims, Jagan said the pro tem Speaker made a clear appeal to all the party leaders to accompany the Speaker. “But, I was surprised to see Naidu attempting to falsify the entire issue which we all witnessed and is on record. Instead of apologising for his act, Naidu is acting in an unjustified manner to cover up the lapse. I don’t want to drag the issue any more. Though God and people severely punished Naidu, there is no change in his attitude,” Jagan observed.
YSRC MLA Chevireddy Bhaskar Reddy added fuel to the fire by using unparliamentary language and prompting TDP leader Atchannaidu to demanded that the ruling party member apologise for making such an objectionable remark. He also insisted on the Speaker expunging the remark from records. Though the Speaker assured that he would do it if the remark was found objectionable, the TDP legislators stuck to their demand.
Expressing regrets over the way the proceedings proceeded on the day Speaker was elected, Naidu reiterated that his party had no intention to disturb the House and appealed to the Speaker to go through the records and take a decision on the objectionable word used by the YSRC MLA before the end of the current session.
Governor ESL Narasimhan will address the joint session of the Assembly and Council on Friday. Jagan met Narasimhan on his arrival in Vijayawada on Thursday.