Hyderabad: In yet another blow for the Congress in Telangana, a fifth sitting MLA is likely to defect to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). With just a month before the Lok Sabha elections, the Congress’s hope of revival in Telangana continued to suffer, four of its 19 MLAs had earlier joined the TRS over the last 10 days. The fifth one in question is Maheshwaram MLA and senior leader Sabitha Indra Reddy, who might meet TRS president and Telangana chief minster K. Chandrashekhar Rao to discuss the issue.
According to a TRS functionary, who did not want to be quoted, Reddy is reportedly miffed as she is seeking the Chevella parliamentary seat for her son Karthik Reddy. But the constituency is likely to be given to sitting MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy who had defected to the Congress from the TRS last year.
The grand old party has also decided to boycott the MLC elections (six seats due to vacancies) that were held on Tuesday, clearing the way for an easy win for the TRS (which won five seats) and its unofficial ally, the All India Majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen to win one. TRS leaders have also claimed that a few more MLAs are seeking to join the party in the coming days.
The TRS functionary, who did not want to be named, said that about five or six more Congress MLAs are willing to defect, but did not confirm who they were. The Congress had earlier nominated Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) treasurer Gudur Narayana Reddy to contest one MLC seat, but decided against contesting due to the “brazen violation of the constitution and democratic norms" TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy said on 11 March.
The development has now put the Congress on the back foot, especially after its poor performance in the state against the 2018 assembly elections, which the TRS swept by winning 88 seats (of the total 119), while the Congress in an alliance with the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Communist Party of India and the Telangana Jana Samithi (TJS) won 19 seats (TDP won 2).
The state has 17 Lok Sabha seats. Of them, the Hyderabad constituency is a bastion of the AIMIM, represented by party chief and incumbent MP Asaduddin Owaisi. The AIMIM has been winning the seat since 1984.
“If the MLAs think that they are sellable commodities they can go. They are being paid money by the TRS," said a senior Congress leader, who did not want to be quoted. He added that the names of candidates for the Lok Sabha elections will be out in the next few days, as senior leaders have gone to New Delhi to meet the high command to finalise them. “We are going to give the TRS a serious fight in at least six or seven of the 17 parliamentary constituencies," he asserted.
After the 2014 elections too, eight MLAs (of 21) and one member of parliament of the Congress defected to the TRS post the elections, weakening the party. The TRS had then increased its strength from just 63 (of the total 119 seats) to nearly 90 thanks to defections from opposition other parties as well. The Congress had banked on the opposition grand alliance in the 2018 assembly elections, but the coalition failed.
“The Congress is facing a really bad situation. They had some scope of winning the Khammam Lok Sabha seat (where it won most of its 19 MLAs ), and another, but the TRS is using its cards really well with KCR encouraging defections to ensure that he wins all the seats. My calculation is that Congress is hoping to win the Khamman and Mahbubabad LS seats, where most of its MLAs are from. The grand old party is slow to wake up and lazy. They don’t know to fight," opined political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.