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Indian Polity

The abolition and revival of the second chamber in State legislatures have become matters of political expediency. Andhra Pradesh is the latest State to favour the alteration of the status quo regarding the Upper House, in an Assembly resolution for its Legislative Council’s abolition. A.P. Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s drastic step comes after key legislation intended to take forward his three-capital proposal was referred to a select committee by the Council, in which his party does not have a majority. His grievance: the Council is working with a political agenda to block his proposal. While the need for a bicameral legislature in the States has often been questioned, few would support the idea that the potential difficulty in getting the Council’s approval should be a reason for its abolition. Chief Ministers ought to bear the possible delay that the Council’s opinion or course of action may cause, and seek to build a legislative consensus instead of pushing their agenda through. In particular, Mr. Reddy will have to listen to different voices on his proposal to locate the State High Court in Kurnool, its legislature in Amaravati, and the government secretariat in Visakhapatnam.

A.P.’s proposal will bear fruit only if Parliament passes a law to that effect, based on the State’s request. Recent experience suggests that States without a Legislative Council favour its revival. Rajasthan, Assam, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh have passed resolutions for a revival, but are yet to get parliamentary approval. In Tamil Nadu, at least two erstwhile DMK regimes had favoured revival, and even parliamentary approval given in 2010 did not result in the actual re-establishment of the Council, which was dissolved in 1986. In A.P., the N.T. Rama Rao regime sought its abolition in 1983, and it was approved by Parliament in 1985. Under the Congress’s Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, the Legislative Council was revived in 2007. It is quite clear that wherever the Council is sought to be revived or abolished, there is no consensus. A parliamentary committee that went into the Bills introduced in respect of Assam and Rajasthan suggested that the Centre evolve a national policy on having an Upper House in the States. The larger question is whether the Councils are serving their intended purpose — to take a considered view on matters without being influenced by electoral considerations. If the Upper Houses are used only for accommodating leaders who have lost general elections, there may not be much meaning in their existence. And there is less justification for having separate representation in Councils for graduates and local bodies when democracy has taken roots and Assemblies are representative of all sections.

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