The number of seats in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly is set to go up from 175 to 225 and that of Telangana from 119 to 153 when elections are held next in 2019. The Narendra Modi led NDA government is going to introduce a Bill to this effect in the second leg of budget session of Parliament that begins on 25 April, sources in the Parliamentary Affairs Minister’s office told The Sunday Guardian.
However, there won’t be any change in the number of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha seats from the two states. The Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act 2014 in its Section 26 spelt out increase in the number of Assembly seats in both the states by next elections, but the ambiguity in the language and the process have put a question mark on its implementation.
But the Centre has now decided to speed up the process. Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has taken the initiative to bring in a Bill on the delimitation of the Assembly seats.
Currently, three ministries—Home, Law and Parliamentary Affairs—are involved in the exercise to draft the bill that would be cleared by the Attorney General (AG) next week. Thereafter, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha would place the bill before the business advisory committee for consideration by the end of the session on 13 May.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minsiter N. Chandrababu Naidu and his Telangana counterpart K. Chandrasekhar Rao have written multiple letters to the Centre asking it to increase the strength of their Assemblies as per the assurances given in the Reorganization Act.
“However, the AP Reorganization Act passed by the previous UPA government was ambiguous. The NDA government has set out to remove those ambiguities by passing a Constitutional amendment,” said sources in the Parliamentary Affairs minister’s office.
Section 26 of the AP Reorganization Act makes it clear that the number of Assembly seats shall be increased from 175 to 225 in AP and 119 to 153 in Telangana, but puts a rider that: “Subject to the provisions contained in the Article 170 of the Constitution and without prejudice to the Section 15 of the Act”. The job of increasing the seats has been left to the Election Commission of India (EC). The EC has brought it to the notice of the Centre that the two conditions—Article 170 of the Constitution and Section 15 of the Reorganization Act—make it impossible to increase the seats. Article 170 says that the number of seats in Assemblies and Parliament can only be increased based on a census data after the year 2026. Section 15 of the Act stipulates that the number of seats in the Assemblies of AP and Telangana should be as per the delimitation order of 2008 (the present strength and boundaries). The Law Ministry, which went into the confusion has suggested that the text of Section 26 of the Reorganization Act should be changed by replacing words “Without prejudice” with “Notwithstanding anything in the Act”. As the AP Reorganization Act is a Constitutional amendment, any changes in its text require another such amendment. Fortunately, there is no opposition from any party to this. Once the bill gets the approval of the Parliament, the EC will set up five-member committees for each state with elected representatives. These panels will draft the new constituencies along with their boundaries and each state will have to approve the list of new segments and finally it would go to the Parliament for final clearance.
The creation of new Assembly constituencies is politically expedient to both Chief Ministers. Naidu and KCR are on a mission to poach opposition MLAs into their respective ruling parties. In the last two months, Naidu admitted 11 YSR Congress MLAs into his TDP.
In Telangana, KCR encouraged the defection of 12 TDP MLAs and seven Congress MLAs into his TRS in the last few months and few Congress MLAs are also likely to join the party end of May.
Both CMs have promised the new joinees of their parties that they would be accommodated in the soon-to-be-created constituencies.