HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: Even before the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) could get over the massive defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, four TDP Rajya Sabha members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday decided to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
According to media reports, 13 former MLAs of the TDP, who had contested the 2019 assembly polls and belong to the numerically strong Kapu community, also held a closed-door meeting in Kakinada to discuss whether they would join the BJP or the ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).
The developments could not have come at a worse time for the TDP, even as party president and general secretary, N. Chandrababu Naidu and his son Nara Lokesh, are both on a holiday in Europe.
The four TDP MPs—C.M. Ramesh, Y.S. Chowdary, T. G. Venkatesh and G. Mohan Rao—wrote to vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, who is also the Rajya Sabha chairman, asking him to merge the TDP’s legislature party with the BJP’s.
Chowdary, a former Union minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, and Ramesh are believed to be close to Naidu. The two MPs, in fact, have faced a series of raids by the income tax department, Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate in recent times. A senior TDP leader, requesting anonymity, alleged that the BJP has used central agencies to strong-arm the MPs into switching sides.
The four MPs, however, will not be required to resign from the Rajya Sabha as per the anti-defection law, which does not require MPs to resign if a two-thirds majority defects to another party. TDP has six MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
The “secret" meeting of former TDP MLAs under the leadership of Thota Trimurthulu was yet another setback for Naidu and his party. The TDP legislators reportedly belonged to the Kapu community, which has a strong presence in the East and West Godavari, and Krishna districts of AP.
BJP state unit leaders had earlier claimed that several leaders from various parties in AP and Telangana were looking to defect.
“Naidu will be back on 25 June and, right now, there is nobody else to take care of these things. We are more concerned about the meeting of the 13 ex-MLAs. They are all big names in the districts they hail from. Losing someone like Y.S. Chowdary will also impact the party in terms of funding," said a TDP leader, requesting anonymity.
“The MPs have decided to join the BJP under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and for the organizational skills of Amit Shah, for the progress of Andhra Pradesh. Today they met under Y.S. Chowdary and they proposed to Amit Shah that they want to join the BJP. He agreed and Thawarchand Gehlot and I went to Venkaiah Naidu with their proposal. He will look into it," said J.P Nadda, working president of the BJP.
Nadda added that the MPs who had joined the party, “would get to work with the BJP, which believes in politics of inclusiveness and sabka saath, sabka vikaas, sabka vishwas."
While the previous two sessions of the Rajya Sabha witnessed repeated disruptions and adjournments, with the TDP MPs often storming the well of the House and staging walkouts, demanding special status for AP, Chowdary, who joined the BJP on Thursday, said the move was in the larger interest of the state.