How Section 8 is not much of a cover for Chandrababu Naidu

By: Amarnath K Menon

Who is to police the police in Hyderabad, the capital of Telangana? This is bugging Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu ever since it became apparent that among others his phone has also been bugged possibly at the behest of the Telangana police. Who ordered for it and why, has not surfaced as yet. What is more the verdict is not yet out from forensics specialists about a purported conversation between Naidu and a nominated Telangana MLA Elvis Stephenson in the alleged cash-for-vote bribery case. Analysis and testing of their voice samples is under way for matching and verification thereafter that the sensational chat was genuine and not a doctored one.

The findings from three forensics laboratories, when made public possibly before the month-end, are likely to kick up a storm. So, in a pre-emptive move, Naidu has latched on to Section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh State Reorganisation Act, 2014, to demand that the controlling authority for law and order in Hyderabad, the common capital of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh for ten years as provided in the Act, should be the common governor ESL Narasimhan.

Irony is that Naidu is asking for this after two of his cabinet colleagues made derisive and insinuating remarks against the governor, only to say sorry but without withdrawing their remarks later. Even as it led to a shrill chorus demanding for a change in the governor by TDP activists to keep the Section 8 issue alive, the crafty Naidu decided to appoint one more adviser – taking the tally to 22 while there are only 19 ministers – to guide him as an expert in forensics sciences. The immediate need for such counsel is not lost on anyone and least of all the appointee KPC Gandhi who launched his own Truth Labs on retiring from the Andhra Pradesh police as head its Forensics Sciences Laboratory.

Apprehensive of the damning consequences when the outcome about the genuineness of his taped conversation with Stephenson becomes public, Naidu has raised a bogey about Section 8 while his loyalists sing in chorus that all powers relating to law and order in the common capital area should vest with the governor and not his bête noire and Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao. In effect, Naidu wants the governor to supervise the functioning of the police in Hyderabad, though they belong to Telangana state.

By raising a hue and cry, on his demand, Naidu is trying hard to shift focus from the cash-for-vote bribery case as it will lead to accusing fingers being pointed at several of his TDP activists besides the party’s Telangana MLA Revanth Reddy already in jail after he was caught red handed while leaving Rs 50 lakh at the home of Stephenson on May 31. The Andhra Pradesh chief minister has succeeded so far and his ministers have gone to the extent of saying that they will insist on Hyderabad being made a Union Territory if Telangana creates hurdles in implementing their interpretation of Section 8 delegating special powers to the governor.

Chandrashekaa Rao has lost no time in warning that he will sit on an indefinite fast in Delhi and make it a national issue by roping in other non-BJP chief ministers. He has termed the attempt to hand over law and order to the governor as an affront to the self respect of the Telangana people. Earlier, in August last, he had raised strong objections to a letter from the ministry of home affairs regarding the powers and functioning of the governor under the Act.

The Telangana chief minister is opposed to certain intrusive norms such as asking the state government to follow certain procedure even in the posting of station house officers as well as assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners of police in Hyderabad. Chandrashekar Rao’s argument is that, as provided for in the Constitution, the governor has to function on the advice of the council of ministers of the state. His contention is that in a similar manner, Section 8 (3) of the Act clearly mentions that in the discharge of his functions, the governor shall, after consulting the council of ministers of the state of Telangana, exercise his individual judgement as to the action to be taken. He points out that any attempt to manage the administration through the governor, by passing the council of ministers of Telangana is a direct affront to the federal polity of our country.

Inclusion of the provisions of Section 8 were primarily to allay the fears of those who are not natives of Telangana residing in the common capital area and assuage the hurt sentiments particularly of Telugus who do not belong to Telangana about their safety and security. This is in the backdrop of attacks on people of Seemandhra, residing in Hyderabad, during the earlier separatist agitation of the 1970s and the targeting of some shops in the city when Chandrashekar Rao on a hunger strike was admitted to the Nizam Institute of Medical Sciences in December, 2009.

Now, Naidu, in yet another display of cynical politics, is using the same section to resurrect the same fear and sentiment among Seemandhra people in Hyderabad and even among the people in downsized Andhra Pradesh. It will also help him, if the bogey is kept alive, to ensure that Seemandhra people do not vote for the TRS in the impending Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections.

For his part, governor Narasimhan, a former Intelligence Bureau chief and IPS officer of the undivided Andhra Pradesh cadre, is keeping a stoic silence about his likely moves. He is conscious of the fact that his powers are limited by Article 163 of the Constitution. It very clearly provides that the council of ministers will aid and advise the governor, and the judgments of the Supreme Court are that the governor is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers. Moreover, law and order powers belong to the state.

So, given his track record, Narasimhan will go only by the rule book. And Naidu’s power play by trying to use Section 8 as a cover-up, for whom Revanth Reddy described as “Boss” in the sensational tape of the cash-for-vote bribery scandal, to get the governor’s help on taking charge as the overriding authority over the police in Hyderabad, will soon come a cropper.

Source: Dailyo

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