Hyderabad: Repeated by-elections for one reason or the other have not only wreaked havoc in many forms in the last few years but also seemed to have pushed the main political parties in Andhra Pradesh to a flash-point that they are now seeking to arrest the worrying trend.
With the state administration getting paralysed due to frequent by-elections and crores of rupees of public money and of political parties and individuals spent, a serious debate has started on the need for initiating some urgent reformative action and finding a practical solution for a burning problem.
The ruling Congress and the principal opposition Telugu Desam have been strongly advocating the need for amending the Representation of the People Act (RPA) to bar legislators from quitting their posts at the drop of a hat and if they resigned mid-term, make them ineligible from contesting the elections for a certain period of time thereupon.
Other important parties like Lok Satta have also raised a similar demand to stop legislators from using resignation as a "personal political weapon".
Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly Speaker Nadendla Manohar was, in fact, the first one to suggest that sitting legislators be barred from quitting their posts except in extraordinary circumstances.
"We have adopted the British Parliamentary traditions and practices but have not been following the same in respect of members` resignation," Manohar feels.
Now Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, Leader of Opposition N Chandrababu Naidu and Lok Satta Party chief N Jayaprakash Narayan have joined chorus, stressing on the need for an urgent amendment to the RPA.
"We will bring changes in the RPA to prevent frequent resignations by sitting MLAs," the Chief Minister said in Rajahmundry on Friday.
Chandrababu wanted legislators, who quit their posts midway through the five-year term, debarred for ten years from contesting elections afresh.
"We are becoming sick, and also scary, about the by-elections," Chandrababu observed.
Narayan, a bureaucrat-turned-MLA, too favoured such a ban saying it would have a "salutary effect"."In case a legislator quits his post and wants to contest a by-election immediately, he or his party should be made to bear the entire election expenditure in that constituency. This step too will prevent unnecessary resignations and have a salutary effect," Narayan said.
Incidentally, the Election Commission had forwarded a proposal in this regard to the Centre earlier but the latter is yet to act on it.
The National Law Commission too came up with a recommendation that a legislator who resigned should not be allowed to contest again till the next general election. The Centre is reportedly sitting on this as well.
In Andhra Pradesh, the trend of resignations was started by the separatist Telangana Rashtra Samiti when its president K Chandrashekar Rao quit his Lok Sabha seat first in 2006 and again in 2008. In 2008, sixteen TRS MLAs resigned from their posts, on the demand for creation of Telangana state, forcing by-elections.
In 2010, ten TRS MLAs quit causing by-polls alleging that the Centre failed to keep its word on the creation of a separate state and repeated the same trick in 2012. This time some turncoats from the TDP also joined the "cause", leading to yet another round of by-polls.
In 2011, one TDP member switched sides to TRS leading to a by-election and in March this year another legislator joined YSR Congress from TDP resulting in a by-election.
By-elections were held to Kadapa Lok Sabha and Pulivendula Assembly constituencies in the same year following the resignation of Y S Jaganmohan Reddy and Y S Vijaya respectively from their posts as well as Congress. In fact, Vijaya was elected to the Assembly in a by-election in December 2009, caused due to the death of her husband and the then Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in September 2009. Two other by-elections were caused due to death of sitting members in 2009 and 2012.
Now, by-elections are being held for one Lok Sabha and 18 Assembly seats, the highest in one go. Of the 18 Assembly seats, 16 fell vacant due to disqualification of sitting members of the ruling Congress (for voting against the government) while two others resigned. The Nellore Lok Sabha by-poll was also caused due to resignation of a sitting member crossing over to YSRC from Congress.
In all, the state witnessed an unprecedented 65 by-elections since 2005.
On each Assembly segment, the government is said to be incurring an expenditure of Rs 5 crore for conducting an election while election watchdogs say the contesting parties and political parties are spending staggering amounts running into hundreds of crores of rupees.
For the time, it seems the major political parties in Andhra Pradesh are seeking to end the trend.