Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear to the two Chief Ministers—N. Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh) and K. Chandrasekhar Rao (Telangana)–that increasing the number of Assembly seats of their states might not be possible before the 2019 general elections.
The PM was told by BJP president Amit Shah and BJP leaders from Telangana that increasing the seats would only serve the interests of the ruling TRS. Both the TDP in AP and TRS in Telangana have admitted a large number of Opposition MLAs in the last three years by promising them tickets in the next elections. However, those who lost the polls on the ruling party tickets were assured that they would be accommodated in the proposed new Assembly seats as MLAs.
The increase in seats of MLAs from 119 to 153 in Telangana and 175 to 225 in Andhra Pradesh has been promised in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014, which split the combined state three years ago. However, there is a loophole in Section 21 of the Act, which says that the delimitation of Assembly seats would be in tune with the provision of the Constitution.
Article 170 of the Constitution stipulates that the delimitation of both Assemblies and Parliament seats would be carried out only based on census data after 2026. That means delimitation can happen only after the census of 2031 and would be applicable to the elections that come after that. The delimitation exercise is expected to take at least six months.
The PM, of course, does not intend to delay the delimitation of Assembly seats in AP and Telangana thus far, TRS parliamentary party leader AP Jitender Reddy told The Sunday Guardian on phone. The TRS delegation led by the CM recently urged Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to introduce a Bill in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament to increase the seats.
In fact, senior MPs from both TRS and TDP have been lobbying hard with Union ministers Rajnath Singh (Home) and Arun Jaitley (Finance) for the last one year to persuade the BJP to introduce a constitutional amendment Bill for increasing Assembly seats. The Centre has almost readied a draft Bill for the purpose.
When AP Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu called on Rajnath Singh in Delhi on 25 July, it was conveyed to him that the government was ready to table the Bill in the House, once a decision was taken at the PM’s level. The same was conveyed to KCR by Rajnath Singh early this week in Delhi. KCR did not press the issue when he called on the PM later. The PM is understood to have said that delimitation of Assembly seats might not happen in the ongoing monsoon session.
Then KCR merely urged the PM to see if the Bill can be introduced in the next winter session of Parliament and also made it clear that he was not overly concerned with the seats hike issue. Senior BJP ministers at the Centre had told KCR and Naidu that the recent opposition from Congress to the increase in Assembly seats, too, would complicate things for the government in securing passage of a constitutional amendment Bill in Rajya Sabha. YSR Congress president Jagan, who has backed BJP in the President and Vice-President polls, too, has been opposing the hike in seats, sources said.
The PM’s stand has made both Naidu and KCR to huddle with their leaders and discuss ways to accommodate the defected MLAs and the defeated candidates in the existing seats. The TDP had admitted that around 22 MLAs from the YSR Congress and the TRS had admitted around 25 MLAs from other parties.
The BJP’s state unit is happy with the development. BJP’s Telangana unit president K. Lakshman said: “When there are many pressing issues before the governments in the wake of division of the combined state, the CMs are after a hike in seats only for political purposes.”