Hyderabad: The announcement of the schedule for by-elections to seven assembly seats has come as a relief for Andhra Pradesh`s ruling Congress as it will now not be facing polls in 24 constituencies in one go as being demanded by the YSR Congress party.
With the assembly speaker yet to take a decision on the disqualification of 17 Congress rebels, the Election Commission decided to go ahead with the polls for seven other seats which fell vacant last year due to resignations of six members. The seventh vacancy was caused by the death of an independent legislator.
By announcing the schedule for seven seats, the Election Commission has ignored the demand of the YSR Congress to conduct simultaneous polls for 24 seats.
Six of the seven seats going to polls on March 18 are in Telangana and as the sentiments for separate state are still strong, the Congress wanted to avoid facing simultaneous elections in other constituencies.
YSR Congress legislators, in a letter to the Election Commission on Feb 13, had urged it to hold polls for all 24 seats in one go. They alleged that the Congress was afraid of facing the electorate and hence was pressurising the speaker to go slow on their disqualification.
The Congress had sought disqualification of the rebels after they violated the party whip and voted in favour of the no-confidence motion moved by opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in the assembly in December.
YSR Congress leader YS Jaganmohan Reddy had challenged the Congress to face by-elections for all 24 seats. The rebels had also met the speaker, urging him to disqualify them.
The ruling party leaders, however, denied that they were afraid of facing the electorate. They claimed that it was for the speaker to decide on the disqualification of the rebels.
As per the poll schedule announced by the Election Commission last night, polling would be held for seven seats on March 18. The vacancies arose due to resignations of two legislators of Congress party, one of TDP, three rebels of TDP and the death of one independent MLA.
Two legislators each of Congress and TDP resigned to join Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Senior TDP leader N. Janardhan Reddy resigned over the demand for separate Telangana state. Another TDP rebel Prasanna Kumar Reddy quit his seat to join YSR Congress party.