Relations between the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government in Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) government in Telangana have taken a turn for the worse after the recent arrest of a TDP MLA in an alleged cash-for-votes scandal. Sreenivas Janyala explains the latest row over a little-known Section in the Andhra State Reorganisation Act that created the state of Telangana.
What are the chief ministers of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh sparring over now?
On May 31, the Telangana Anti-Corruption Bureau arrested TDP MLA A Revanth Reddy for allegedly paying a bribe of Rs 50 lakh to a nominated MLA to influence his voting in the Legislative Council elections. Caught unawares by the Telangana government’s operation, the Andhra government approached the Centre (the TDP is part of the NDA) asking for the Governor to use the special powers vested in him under Section 8 of the Andhra State Reorganisation Act to ‘stop’ the Telangana government from allegedly ‘targeting’ TDP’s MLAs in Telangana.
What is Section 8 about?
The Section grants special powers to the governor to ensure security in Hyderabad, the shared capital of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, for 10 years. The provisions were incorporated by the UPA government to address the concerns of people hailing from Andhra and Rayalaseema but residing in the common capital. Section 8 says the governor can, after consulting the council of ministers of Telangana, use his personal judgment and take action in matters relating to law and order, including police transfers in the shared capital. The police commissioners of Hyderabad, Cyberabad and the SP of the neighbouring district of Ranga Reddy are also required to furnish reports on law and order frequently to the governor. The Act says the governor’s decision is final and the validity of anything he or she does cannot be called into question. The TDP alleged that phones of Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu and TDP MLAs were tapped by Telangana agencies and Governor ESL Narasimhan was not only unaware about it but “chose to ignore” the TDP MLAs when they protested.
What is the Telangana government’s counter to the demand?
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao says Section 8 of the Act clearly states that the Governor “shall take any decision only after consulting the Council of Ministers of the State of Telangana”. Rao contends that since Hyderabad is in Telangana, law and order will be under the control of the Telangana state police. Besides, the TRS says, Section 8 of the AP Reorganisation Act isn’t meant to “give any protection to anybody indulging in corruption”. KCR says Naidu was raking up the issue of Section 8 only to cover up his role in the cash-for-vote scandal.
Has Section 8 courted trouble before?
Yes. Months after Telangana was carved out of Andhra Pradesh, the Telangana government had clashed with the Centre over the special powers given to the Governor under the Act. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao had then said law and order was a state subject and it was not the governor’s job to ensure security. While it was the UPA government that incorporated provisions of Section 8 in the Act, Rao expressed his anger when the NDA government at the Centre spelt it out in a letter that joint secretary (Ministry of Home Affairs) S Suresh Kumar wrote to Telangana chief secretary Rajeev Sharma. Rao had then said, “Any attempt to micro-manage the administration through the governor, bypassing the council of ministers, is a direct affront to the federal polity of our country.’’
What has been the immediate fall-out of this latest row?
The tension continues to build. On Tuesday, the Andhra Pradesh government deployed its own police personnel, drawn from various units of the state police, outside the residence of Naidu and the TDP headquarters. Until then, it was the Telangana police that handled the Andhra Pradesh CM’s security in Hyderabad — including the police escort, the inner and outer protection rings — and also provided personal security officers to AP ministers.