I think two incidents defined the no-confidence motion that was debated in the AP Assembly yesterday.
1. TRS MLA Harish Rao was speaking on the Rs.1/kg rice scheme. He was mentioning how the government slyly cut down on the sugar and kerosene quota of the ration card holder while reducing the price of rice. He said that only half kg of sugar and less than 4 litres of kerosene was subsidized right now. Because of the reduction in this quota, the ration card holder is burdened by about Rs.30 more than before. At this point of time, the minister of legislative affairs, D. Sridhar babu rises. He gets all combative, demands that he be heard immediately. He then shouts "why are you keeping on repeating "only half kg sugar, only half kg sugar"".
Listening to his tone and looking at his posture, one expected that Harish Rao gave out wrong information and the minister is out to refute it strongly. The minister starts of by saying that government is spending about Rs.800 per person on subsidies for 7 1/2 crore people of the state. And then asks the opposition only "Why did we reduce sugar quota? You have been ministers. You know how it works. It depends on productivity, and on how much we get from the centre. These are administrative decisions" So all that combativeness was to merely agree with the observation that sugar quota has been cut. Later he went to explain why Kerosene quota has been cut. And then launched the rhetoric - we reduced the price of rise from Rs.2/kg to Rs.1/kg .... and so on. the first 6 minutes of this video here captures it all.
Harish Rao got up after the minister's reply and thanked him for acknowledging that quota of other items have been cut. Am sure the minister would have rued accepting that fact on the floor of the assembly. If he kept quiet, people would have just thought this was another rant by the opposition.
2. At around midnight, the CM stood up to reply. He first got into some rhetoric, and then into statistics. At one point, he says that the Leader of Opposition quoted false figures from a CAG report. He wondered how Mr. Naidu cannot even read documents and come well prepared. Mr. Naidu rose, and told the CM the full book name (it's a CAG annual report for 2010-2011), then gives the page number and then quotes the figures again. The figure is about bloated expenditure for irrigation projects. Some 27,000 crores. CM says, no no... main issue is that the report is talking about projects from 40 years. Mr. Naidu again refutes saying that he is quoting about projects that started after 2004, and CAG gives yearly reports, not 40 year old reports. At 3:58 in this video, the CM tells the opposition "When we quote, maybe there is some printing mistake. Please check the book". That was the answer from the leader of the state - "Maybe there is a printing mistake".
I quoted the above two examples just to show how good the governance is actually in Andhra Pradesh. Ministers believe that being combative and throwing in the pro-poor card is the logical answer for actual logical questions posed by the opposition. Almost all the ministers who replied resorted to more rhetoric than facts. The latest fad of the government - Rajiv Yuvakiranalu came under criticism from the ruling party ministers themselves only. This happened last week, and in the assembly yesterday, ministers themselves said they will rectify shortcomings. How they will rectify shortcomings in a program that is yet to be launched is beyond comprehension. The CM already announced that about 1 lakh jobs will be given out in December. He had no answer to how the training is happening for these people.
The CM had no answer on the 2-12 hour power cuts. On crop holiday, he said loans upto 1 lakh are being given interest free to farmers if they pay back within an year. How fair is to expect a farmer who hasn't grown a crop because of wrong policies, to repay a fresh loan in one year?
The quality of the debate reflected the political situation in the state. The TDP was continously harping on the hardships faced by the farmer, in an attempt to gain a pro-farmer image. Though their arguments were laced with many official statistics, the strength of their arguments was often lost in the rhetorical din of the ruling party members. Newspapers in the morning highlighted the personal duel between the CM and opposition leader; between the PCC Chief and the opposition leader; between the PCC chief and YSR's widow etc. The TRS spoke more about their feelings on injustice to Telangana. YSR Congress leader spoke about how this government is screwing up the state. Congress party members lost no opportunity to thank and praise Sonia Gandhi/Rahul Gandhi.
The political significance of yesterday's debate cannot be lost. Jagan Mohan Reddy famously said he has the numbers to bring down the government. Clearly he does not have the numbers now. However, without PRP's support (the merger is not yet legally done), the congress is in a minority. If all those Congress MLAs who voted for the no-confidence motion are disqualified, then the by-elections will be very interesting to watch. Since Chandrababu Naidu accepted Jagan's challenge to place a no-confidence motion, the only loser from this whole episode is Jagan. The real challenge for Congress will be to win the 17 seats that will go to bye-elections. That said, the Telangana issue has been dominating the political scenario of AP so much, that all other issues just take a back seat.
The dramatic drop in the levels of debate and discourse in AP politics for the past 7 years in very depressing. Facts are giving way to fiction. Two previous blogs here and here have documented the dramatic fall in actual governance in Andhra Pradesh. Within no time, it is saddening to write another blog rueing the depressing fall in public discourse.
Do you want further proof of the fall? Minister Sridhar babu brings in Arun Shourie into the debate. In his attempt to discredit BJP floor leader Kishen Reddy, the minister says "From which party is Mr. Kishen Reddy from? From which party? From that party whose member Mr. Arun Shourie wrote a book criticizing the father of Indian constitution. Worshipping false gods." You need more proof?