Andhra Pradesh Civil Supplies Minister D Sridhar Babu resigned from the Cabinet on Thursday night protesting the divesting of legislative affairs portfolio that he had been holding for over three years now.
After prolonged discussions with Congress leaders from Telangana and also his Mandhani constituency, an agitated Sridhar forwarded his resignation letter to Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy, a close aide of the minister said.
Sridhar, who hails from Karimnagar district in Telangana, had drafted his resignation letter on Wednesday itself but kept it on hold as his fellow ministers from the region dissuaded him from taking any hasty step.
On Thursday, Sridhar met All India Congress Comittee secretary Ramachandra Kuntia, who visited the state, and took up the issue with him. Kuntia is said to have told Sridhar that allocation or change in portfolios was the chief minister's prerogative and no offence could be taken to it.
Later, Sridhar conferred with his followers and leaders from Karimnagar and decided to quit the cabinet, sources close to him said.
Ironically, Sridhar was one of the trusted supporters of Kiran, a vocal supporter of united AP who has taken on the Congress leadership over the proposed division of the state.
In a late night exercise on December 31, the CM relieved Sridhar of the additional portfolio of legislative affairs and in lieu allotted the commercial taxes department.
Sridhar, as well as fellow ministers from Telangana, took it as an affront at a time when the state Legislature was set to debate the AP Reorganisation Bill-2013 from Friday.
The ministers from Telangana registered their protest over this with Governor ESL Narasimhan even as the CM asserted change in portfolio of a minister was his prerogative.
Kiran also pointed out that the crucial commercial taxes portfolio was allotted to Sridhar as he could efficiently handle it and boost the state revenues.
The CM's argument did not cut ice with the sulking minister who not only refused to take up the new assignment but also stayed firm on his resolve to quit the cabinet.
The minister holding charge of legislative affairs plays a key role in ensuring floor co-ordination and a smooth debate in the legislature. The AP House stands vertically divided on the state bifurcation issue. S Sailajanath, the new legislative affairs minister, hails from Seemandhra.
Image: D Sridhar Babu