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Looking for upsides of an Upper House

Karn Kowshik

Posted: Mar 12, 2007 at 1640 hrs IST

Twenty years ago, arguably Andhra Pradesh's best-known chief minister, N T Rama Rao, had abolished the Legistative Council, giving the state a unicameral Assembly. Now, the state is preparing to go back to its original bicameral form, with elections to the Upper House to be held on March 17.

The Andhra Pradesh Legislative Council Act, 2005, was passed by Parliament on November 1, 2006, paving the way for constitution of an Upper House.

While the elections will also be fought in eight graduates' constituencies, eight teachers' constituencies and 28 local authorities' constituencies, it's the 31 seats for which MLAs will vote which are being most closely watched in the state. For one, the elections might settle the debate on whether there is actually any dissidence within the ruling Congress or not.

For these 31 MLA constituency seats, there are 32 nominations, meaning that one of those nominated will not be selected. The question on everyone's minds is who this person will be. With both the Congress and TDP having fielded one more candidate than their respective strengths in the Assembly, it almost makes this a contest between the two parties.

The Congress is confident that all 20 of its candidates will be elected without difficulty, while the TDP too insists its five nominees will sail through. The TRS has two candidates, while the CPI, CPI(M) and Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen have one each in the fray. There is also an Independent in the midst, Kasani Gyaneshwar.

A simple calculation shows that each candidate requires 9.22 votes to win. The close numbers mean that only cross-voting between parties will result in a party losing one of its candidates. With no whip to gather up votes, there is no telling what might happen. Each voter will have a First Preferential Vote and a Second Preferential Vote. While parties have already allocated their first vote, experts say that it is the second preferential vote that will act as a deciding factor.

For a clear win, a candidate will have to garner 10 first preference votes. But because of the extra candidate, sources say that parties have allocated just 9 to each candidate, and are trying to garner the extra fraction through the second preference vote.

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu said that his fifth candidate, P Yadagiri, would be elected as an MLC. However, APCC president K Keshava Rao advises him to withdraw its additional candidate, "rather than allow him to be humiliated". The Congress's extra candidate is K Laskhmi Durgesh.

NTR, who formed the TDP, had the Upper House abolished on the grounds that it was too expensive, and an unnecessary drain on the exchequer. This remains Naidu's line as well, with the promise that the House would be abolished again if the TDP was voted back to power. According to officials, the Legislate Council is expected to cost the state about Rs 4 crore each year.

The Legislative Council can have a maximum of 98 members, which is a third of the Assembly strength. But this House will have only 90 members, the same number as the Council that NTR abolished. These will include eight nominations by the Governor of the state.

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