In a major setback to the Congress in Telangana, 12 MLAs who had defected from the party met with Speaker Pocharam Srinivas Reddy on Thursday and filed a petition to merge the Congress Legislature Party with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). If the Speaker accepts the proposal, this would mean that the Congress would lose the status of main opposition in the House.
In the Assembly elections held in December last year, the TRS bagged 88 seats while the Congress bagged 19. However, many senior leaders including sitting MLAs have defected to the ruling TRS in the state, leaving the Congress fighting a losing battle. With the defection of these 12 MLAs, and with Uttam Kumar Reddy vacating his MLA seat on Wednesday because he won the Lok Sabha election, the Congress presently is left with just six MLAs.
Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) chief and Congress MP Uttam Kumar Reddy, and other senior leaders including Mohammed Shabbir Ali and Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, staged a protest with black bands on their mouths on Thursday against the rebels and the TRS.
"People voted for the Congress party's symbol, and these MLAs who won were bought by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao,” Uttam Kumar alleged, “This is shameful that he is buying MLAs. People of Telangana will never forgive KCR. Will he go to any lengths to destroy the opposition? Why go to such lengthy efforts? He can just shift the Assembly to his farmhouse. What is the need for an Assembly building or even a Speaker?"
Uttam Kumar also said that they had repeatedly requested the Speaker to disqualify the defectors, but to no avail.
Meanwhile, All India Congress Committee (AICC) Spokesperson Dr Sravan Dasoju in a message said, "Considering the present political dynamics in Telangana, in consultation with AICC Media Department, TPCC President has LIFTED the moratorium on attending TV debates by our spokespersons. All the TPCC spokespersons and important leaders are requested to attend the media debates and expose the undemocratic and anti-constitutional attempt of merging CLP into TRS (sic)."
Already, a case is being heard by the Telangana High Court in this regard. In December last year, just days after the state Assembly elections, four Congress MLCs led by Akula Lalitha met KCR and later submitted a representation to Telangana Legislative Council chairperson K Swamy Goud, seeking a merger of the of the Congress Legislature Party into the TRS Legislative Party. As it was accepted by Goud, an angered Congress moved the High Court.
The petitioners argued that the Election Commission of India was the competent authority to carry out the merger, adding that the Telangana Council Chairman did not have that power.
The Congress MLCs who defected argued that they had the required strength for merger into TRS Legislative Party under paragraph 4 of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution of India. The paragraph being cited by the leaders in the Constitution deals with defection of elected representatives, and says that disqualification on ground of defection need not apply in case of a merger of 2/3rd of the Legislative Party with another.