Hyderabad: In an unprecedented action in state legislature history, Andhra Pradesh Assembly Speaker Nadendla Manohar on Friday night disqualified 16 MLAs of ruling Congress who had voted against the party government during a no-trust motion in December last year sailing with expelled Congress leader Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.

The Speaker also accepted the resignation of Praja Rajyam Party MLA B Sobha Nagi Reddy who too had backed Jagan.

The development brings down the strength of Congress from 154 to 137 in a House of 294 but does not threaten the Congress government headed by Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy which enjoys the support of 17 members of PRP and seven of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimin. There are already seven seats vacant in the assembly.

All these MLAs, owing allegiance to YSR Congress President and Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, were disqualified under the anti-defection law after they had defied the party whip and voted against the Kiran Kumar Reddy government on the no-confidence motion moved by main opposition Telugu Desam Party on December 5 last year.

Congress and Praja Rajyam Party, which  are still recognised as separate group in the state Assembly despite its merger with Congress, had filed petitions on December 12 seeking disqualification of the 17 rebel MLAs for defying parties' whip and voting in support of no-confidence motion.

Sobha Nagi Reddy subsequently tendered her resignation from the House even as she challenged the locus standi of PRP in issuing a whip when the outfit no longer existed.

The MLAs disqualified by the Speaker were: Balineni Srinivasa Reddy, Pilli Subhash Chandra Bose, Konda Surekha (all former ministers), Mekapati Chandrasekhar Reddy, Dharmana Krishna Das (brother of state R&B Minister Dharmana Prasada Rao), M Sucharita, Amarnatha Reddy, T Balaraju, G Babu Rao, G Srikanth Reddy, Kapu Ramachandra Reddy, Srinivasulu, Prasada Raju, Gurunath Reddy, Chennakesava Reddy and P Ramakrishna Reddy.

Of the 16, Surekha, Srikanth Reddy and Amarnath Reddy were disqualified under Rule 2 (1) (a) and 2 (1) (b) of the anti-defection law as petitions seeking their disqualification were submitted previously as well (even before the voting on no-confidence motion) for defying Congress and sailing with Jagan.

 13 other legislators were disqualified under Rule 2 (1) (b) of the law Schedule for voting and going against the party whip, the Speaker noted in his ruling.

Manohar followed the precedent, set by one of his predecessors Suresh Reddy in disposing of the disqualification petitions and the resignation of Sobha Nagi Reddy.

He also followed his own verdicts in the case of two rebel MLAs Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy and N Prasanna Kumar Reddy who had defected to TRS and YSR Congress respectively by resigning from their posts even as disqualification petitions were pending against them.

Following is the party-wise strength in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly after disqualification of 16 ruling Congress MLAs and resignation of one Praja Rajyam Party MLA late on Friday night:

Congress (137), Telugu Desam Party (86), Praja Rajyam Party (17), Telangana Rashtra Samiti (11), Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (7), CPI (4), BJP (2), CPI-M (1), Lok Satta Party (1) YSR Congress 1 and Independents 3.

 Seven seats are already vacant for which by-elections are slated to be held on March 18.

By-polls to 17 seats that fell vacant tonight will be held before September.