TRS silencing legislators in Telangana: Is it blasphemous for MLAs to criticise the Guv's address?
TRS legislators and their chief K Chandrasekhar Rao have suddenly found such merits in the office of the Governor that any criticism is termed as blasphemy.
Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) legislators and their chief K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) have suddenly found such virtues and merits in the office of the Governor that any criticism of the first person of the state is now termed as blasphemy. Opposition parties who were critical of the Governor for showering praise on KCR as the ‘best Chief Minister’ have now also dubbed him as 'brand ambassador of KCR’ and ‘PRO of the CM’ following the continued bonhomie between them.
As if in a thanksgiving gesture, the Telangana chief minister threatened to invoke the ‘prove or perish Act’ against all Opposition leaders who hurled such remarks on Governor ESL Narasimhan’s address to the joint session of the Telangana legislature. Narasimhan's second term as Governor of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana ends in April this year.
Last Friday, firebrand TDP (Telugu Desam Party) MLA from Kodangal A Revanth Reddy and Sattupalli MLA S Venkata Veraiah were suspended for the rest of the Budget session by Assembly Speaker Madhusudhana Chary for raising slogans while Governor Narasimhan addressed the joint session of state legislature. The intolerant mood of the ruling TRS was on display at the last session of Assembly when the Opposition was warned of ‘suspensions' if they disrupted the proceedings or even the Governor's address during the Budget session.
Revanth Reddy claimed that the Governor’s speech was full of “lies”. In 2014, the Governor had said Rs 10 lakh assistance was given to families of martyrs of Telangana agitation and also listed that 1,569 people committed suicide. “But until now only 500 people were granted assistance,” he said, contending that he was suspended for exposing the hollowness of the government articulated by the Governor’s address. “This displays how the government is scared of exposure and intolerant of people who raise questions. By just sacking Deputy CM T Rajaiah on charge of corruption, KCR claimed that his government had become corruption-free. But things are different on ground and in reality,” said TDP Telangana president L Ramana.
TRS leaders though contend that the TDP, BJP and Congress MLAs have made it a habit of criticising KCR and the government for everything that was reported in the media. “They blame us for non-functioning of ATMs, delay of trains, and also fog in the air. The government is not shirking its responsibility but a two-year-old state government cannot take responsibility for everything that happens on the streets,” said senior TRS leader and Home Minister Nayini Narasimha Reddy.
Another prominent TRS leader and Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao said the TDP and Congress blame the TRS as they are unable to sit in Opposition and accept the people’s mandate. “Congress leaders are finding fault with the Governor and all constitutional bodies for failing them. They even called Governor as ‘PRO of KCR’,” he chided.
An aggressive ruling party
In his reply to the Governor’s address, KCR set the mood by defending the action against TDP legislators. “The Governor’s speech reflected the programmes and schemes implemented by Telangana government. If anyone proves they are lies, I will quit my post within five minutes,” he said.
“We will no longer tolerate this. Anyone making allegations against the goverment should prove them, else they have to face stringent action. We will soon bring an Act (Prove or Perish Act),” he said in the House.
The chief minister went on to explain that dissent was a democratic right but it should be contextual. The suspension of TDP members was to act as a lesson and a message for dignified behaviour in the House, he said. “Can’t they hide their intolerance when a Constitutional authority is speaking?” he asked.
When BJP floor leader G Kishan Reddy retorted that TRS too had behaved in the same manner in the past, KCR said things were different then and now no such environment exists. “Why don’t you check what your government (BJP) has done in Maharashtra where MLAs were suspended for two years for disrupting the Governor’s speech?” KCR countered the BJP leaders.
Speaker Madhusudhanachary said that the issue was discussed threadbare during the last session and it was decided that in the Budget session in March, if any MLA tries to disrupt the Governor's speech on the opening day of Assembly session, he/she would be suspended for one year. “All had agreed then, but now they are protesting,” he told media after the suspensions.
The Assembly suspension has come as salt on the wounds of Opposition members in the state. Thanks to the Governor’s docile role in Telangana , a city-based TDP MLA Tasalasani Srinivas Yadav who had defected to TRS ahead of the Hyderabad civic polls last year was inducted as a cabinet member. With scant regard to public uproar, KCR had put pressure on the Governor for induction of Yadav in the cabinet and the Governor had signed on the dotted line. “As per regulations the Governor should have rejected Yadav’s appointment to Cabinet and sent back the file as he did to Kiran Kumar Reddy, several appointments of whose the Governor had turned down,” said legal and political analyst KVV Charya.
Opposition united against TRS
This move to muzzle legislators has consolidated the Opposition in Telangana against the ruling party. The recent public utterances of Governor ESL Narasimhan praising KCR as ‘visionary, man with a mandate and Best CM’ had irked Opposition leaders. Unlike other CMs, KCR was a regular visitor to Raj Bhavan under one pretext or another – presenting Telangana delicacies, variety produce from KCR’s farms and seasonal prasad (holy food offerings) from various temples. “The House is being run like Telangana Bhavan, the ruling TRS headquarters,” TPCC Chief N Uttam Kumar Reddy said.
The Communist Party of India (CPI) national council secretary, K Narayana questioned the Telangana government’s right to suspend the MLAs on the ruse of obstructing the Governor’s speech. “Both the Speaker and the Governor, though termed as constitutional heads, deserve no respect as they were encouraging defections and promoting unconstitutional acts of those in power,” he said.
“How can the Speaker, who remained silent over defections, now suggest to the members to respect the Governor, who also has been maintaining a tactical silence on this issue? Harish Rao, now Legislative Affairs Minister, who was at the forefront of such acts in the Assembly (protests and demonstrations in the Assembly before bifurcation) now ironically speaks of rules and regulations?” asked the Communist leader.
Why is KCR pleasing the governor?
Why is Governor Narasimhan bending backwards to please KCR and absolve him of breaking the rules? And why is KCR keen to appease the Governor?
It appears that the TRS government is very keen that Narasimhan should continue for another term as Governor of Telangana. Narasimhan’s second term as the Governor ends in April 2017. He was first given the joint responsibility of Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh in 2009 following the ND Tiwari scandal and was given an extension in the wake of the Telangana movement in April 2012.
The TRS leadership initially criticised his continuation as Narasimhan was termed as an ‘anti-Telangana campaigner’. The NDA government asked Narasimhan to continue and complete the bifurcation as he had been involved in the process from the beginning. It is reported that ahead of Presidential elections, a new Governor would be installed in the Telugu states and the name of DH Shankara Murthy, senior BJP leader and chairman of Karnataka Legislative Council, is being floated in Delhi’s power corridors.
Andhra Assembly to take a cue from TRS
The ensuing Budget session of the Aandhra Pradesh Assembly is also likely to see similar suspensions of YSR Congress MLAs and their leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy as Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu is vexed with their jarring tirades. Andhra Speaker Kodela Shivprasad Rao was said to be examining a report of the Assembly Disciplinary Committee on the issue in addition to the proposal for extension of the suspension of Nagari MLA K Roja who has already been suspended for one year.
The issue was discussed at length in the TDP legislative party meeting early this month ahead of the Budget session and members endorsed by voice a proposal to authorise the Finance Minister and Legislative Affairs Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu to take suitable action at the appropriate time.
But the ruling TDP in Andhra had no soft corner towards Governor Narasimhan, though they entertained his weekly visits to Tirumala for Friday pujas with his family and friends. During the Telangana agitation, TDP leader Ramakrishnudu had showered the choicest potshots at Narasimhan.
The TDP leadership was also unhappy that Governor Narasimhan had been pursuing the “Vote for Note case” more vigorously against Chandrababu Naidu allegedly at the behest of Telangana CM KCR.
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