As Lok Sabha elections are approaching fast, The Telangana Congress is witnessing an exodus of its legislative members to ruling camp of Telangana Rashtra Samiti, endangering its opposition status in the assembly as its strength has come down to 11 from 19 MLAs. On Sunday, its 8th MLA, Vanama Venkateshwara Rao, announced defection to TRS after meeting with state CM K Chandrashekar Rao.
“All-round development of Kothagudem constituency is important to me. KCR ji has assured me to comprehensively develop it” Rao, who represents Kotaguden constituency, was quoted by reports. Before Rao, MLAs Atram Sakku, Rega Kantha Rao, Haripriya Naik, Ch Lingaiah, P Sabita Indra Reddy, D Sudhir Reddy, Upender Reddy have announced support to TRS.
Not only MLAs, but many other party leaders disenchanted with its leadership are also joining TRS. Congress youth leader Krishank Manne burned the party flag and other campaign materials to express his disproval with Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee President UK Reddy, for not “recognising” his work. He has also written an open letter to Congress President Rahul Gandhi accusing state leaders of making money and not contributing to party in any manner.
Hyderabad: Congress leader Krishank sets party flags & other election campaign material on fire; says, “I resigned from Congress party as I was disappointed by TPCC president UK Reddy for not recognizing my work. I will join TRS in presence of KT Rama Rao in Telangana”(17.03) pic.twitter.com/lq7X2a8JNj
— ANI (@ANI) March 18, 2019
With the defection of its 8th MLA, Congress party can lose the status of the principal opposition party in the state’s assembly, as it is mandatory to have 10% members in the house to retain status. Losing the status will strip Leader of opposition Mallu Bharti, the benefits which are equivalent of a cabinet minister.
There are speculations that 4 more Congress MLAs are in talks with TRS to defect. If that happens, the MLAs may not get disqualified as per provisions of the anti-defection law. The law mandates defection of at least two-thirds MLAs to gain recognition as a separate block and gain eligibility to pledge support to any party without having to resign from the assembly.
Congress party has been continuously alleging CM KR Rao of exercising undemocratic and unconstitutional measures to wipe out opposition from the state. The party also plans to meet Governor ESL Narasimhan on Monday to submit a memorandum in this regard.
In the last assembly elections of Telangana, Congress fought in alliance with Telegu Desam Party, Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) and Communist Party of India (CPI), to combat the incumbent Telangana Rashtra Samithi CM KC Rao. The alliance, named Prajakutami, had failed miserably with Congress getting 19 seats out of 100 it had contested, and TDP getting relegated to two seats. The other alliance partners had drawn a blank. Due to this, CM KC Rao was back to the throne with a thumping majority of 88 seats.
Not only in Telangana, Congress party is having a hard time to save its leaders from going to other parties, in other states also. Earlier this month, leader of opposition in Maharashtra assembly, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son Sujay Vikhe Patil joined the BJP. It was followed by reports of 7-time MLA Kalidas Kolambkar leaving Congress and joining BJP.
Another setback to Congress had come in the form of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s closest aide Tom Vadakkan joining the BJP, citing disenchantment with the party over its stand over Pulwama attack.