Hyderabad: In a setback to the Congress in Telangana, two of its 19 MLAs are likely to join the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) led by chief minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao on Saturday. The development comes just 10 days before five MLC seats go to polls under the MLA quota on March 12, and will further weaken the opposition which had won just 19 of the 119 MLA seats in the assembly elections last year.

The two MLAs who have reportedly issued letters with regard to them being interested in joining the TRS are Asifabad MLA A. Sakku and Pinapaka MLA R. Kantha Rao. In the upcoming MLA polls, the Congress has fielded Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee treasurer Gudur Narayana Reddy. His candidature was cleared last week.

The TRS has fielded four candidates - home minister Mohammed Mahmood Ali, Satyavathi Rathod, Seri Subhash Reddy and Y Mallesham. The All India majilis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, with which it is on “friendly" terms, has fielded Mirza Riyaz. The TRS is looking to win four and help the AIMIM win the fifth. For winning each seat, it needs 21 seats.

With the support of one nominated member, two Independents and seven AIMIM MLAs, the TRS, which wo 88 seats in the 2018 elections, has 98 votes, falling short of seven votes of the total 105 required for it make a clean sweep. If the TRS manages the support of seven Congress MLAs, then it will be a cakewalk for the pink party in the polls.

However, it is yet to be seen what the Congress does to keep its MLAs from defecting. After the 2014 elections too eight of its 21 MLAs had shifted to the TRS, and some of them went on to become cabinet ministers as well. When contacted, Congress leaders refused to comment and said that appropriate action will be taken soon.