Congress president Sonia Gandhi is said to have given her nod for Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy to initiate disciplinary action by seeking disqualification of 16 party MLAs, who sided with the YSR Congress president Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, and cross-voted against the government in the no confidence motion in AP Legislative Assembly on Tuesday last.
Ms. Gandhi reportedly took the decision here on Saturday after holding hectic consultations with her political secretary Ahmed Patel and Union Health Minister and Congress general secretary in charge of the State, Ghulam Nabi Azad. Party sources said she wanted to give a strong message that indiscipline would not be tolerated at any cost.
Mr. Reddy, who was summoned by the party leadership, during his discussions with Ms. Gandhi, was told clearly that he should go on cracking the whip against the dissidents no matter even if there were by-elections for so many seats.
The next step would be that a meeting of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) convened in Hyderabad shortly and a resolution passed seeking action against the rebels for violating the party whip. The resolution along with letter of the party chief whip/leader in the Assembly would be sent to the Assembly Speaker seeking disqualification of the MLAs under the anti-defection law.
Mr. Reddy told journalists: “The disqualification of all the MLAs who defied the party whip and voted against the government will be sought under the 10th schedule of the Constitution. Our party MPs, leaders, cadres and PCC have expressed the same desire. We are going ahead with it," he said.
On the fate of two Congress MLAs who defied the whip and abstained from voting, he said an explanation would be sought from them.
To a question, he said the Praja Rajyam Party, which had merged with the Congress outside the Assembly, would take action against two of its MLAs for cross-voting as the party was still considered a separate group in the Assembly.
The one-year-old Kiran Kumar Reddy government received a breather when a no-confidence motion tabled by the Telugu Desam Party and backed by the entire Opposition was defeated by a wide margin of 38 votes. It won the confidence of the Assembly by 160-122 votes.
If the 16-MLAs get disqualified the government's strength in the House will go down to 137, way below the half-way mark in the 294-member Assembly.