In a severe setback for the Congress in Telangana, 12 of the party’s 18 MLAs Thursday submitted a representation to Assembly Speaker P Srinivas Reddy seeking to merge the Congress Legislature Party with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti Legislature Party. The 12 MLAs also pledged their support to TRS leader and Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
The Congress had won 19 Assembly seats in the December 2018 state elections while the TRS had won 88 in the 119-member House. The number was reduced to 18 after Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N Uttam Kumar Reddy resigned from the Huzurnagar constituency following his victory from the Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat.
On Thursday afternoon, five Congress MLAs, led by senior MLA Sabita Indra Reddy, met TRS working president K T Rama Rao and submitted a list of 12 MLAs willing to join the ruling party. The other four MLAs were Sudhir Reddy, Haripriya Naik, C Lingaiah and K Upender Reddy.Sabita Reddy said the Congress MLAs “wish to work with CM KCR to achieve his vision of a golden Telangana”. “We will join the TRS shortly,’’ she said.
The other Congress MLAs moving to TRS are Athram Sakku, J Surender, Harshvardhan Reddy, V Venkateshwara Rao, R Kantha Rao, Gandra Venkat Reddy and Rohith Reddy.
After meeting KTR, the five MLAs went to the Speaker’s chamber in the Assembly and submitted the memorandum seeking the merger of the CLP with TRS LP.
This year, a group of six Congress MLAs had submitted a similar representation to the Speaker, which was not accepted. The Speaker, however, accepted the representation submitted Thursday. Sources said the 12 MLAs will escape the disqualification clause under the anti-defection law as they form a two-third majority.
TPCC chief Uttam Kumar Reddy said an earlier meeting of the 12 MLAs, in which they decided to submit the memorandum, was illegal. “The CLP meeting cannot be held without my permission as TPCC president. It is invalid and illegal. These MLAs have been bought over by KCR who has adopted the method of buying of all Opposition party MLAs at any cost to finish off any opposition. We have submitted many representations in the past to disqualify MLAs who switch parties, but the Speaker has not taken any action,’’ Reddy said.
Reddy and other Congress leaders also held a protest outside the Assembly before being forcibly removed by police. “The Speaker met the rebel MLAs but when we sought an appointment, he did not meet us. He is murdering the Constitution and democracy. This is the most shameless and brazen murder of democracy. KCR is pressuring the Speaker to merge CLP with TRS,’’ Reddy alleged.
TRS Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav dismissed the allegations. “When MLAs are approaching on their own to join the TRS, there is no question of buying them. After seeing the landslide victory of TRS and the popularity of KCR, these MLAs also want to be members of our party. We welcome them,’’ Yadav said.
With the 12 Congress MLAs, the TRS tally in the Assembly has gone up to 103 with two TDP MLAs and one Independent having already joined the ruling party.
In April, after several Congress MLAs sought the merger of the CLP with the TRSLP, CLP leader Bhatti Vikramarka had filed a petition in court stating that only the Election Commission of India had the power to declare a merger of political parties or legislative parties. The matter is pending in court.