A meeting between Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLA Shakeel Ahmed and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP D. Arvind on Thursday has sparked rumours that the former is likely to join the BJP on Friday, in what would be the first defection from the ruling TRS. Apart from Ahmed, talk in political circles is that about seven more TRS leaders including sitting MLAs, are likely to join the BJP.
The defections, if they takes place, will be a blow to the TRS and will come against the backdrop of talk of unhappy senior leaders and MLAs aiming to shift to the BJP.
The other TRS names that have come up as possible defectors to the BJP are Ghanpur MLA Thatikonda Rajaiah, Malkajgiri M. Hanumanth Rap, Nizamabad (rural) MLA Bajireddy Govardhan Reddy, Adilabad MLA, Jogu Ramanna, Jangaon MLA Muthireddy Yadgiri Reddy and former TRS minister Jupally Krishna Rao.
Arvind posted a picture of the meeting between the two on Thursday, fanning the rumours of a defection.
A BJP leader who did not want to be named said that he cannot confirm whether Shakeel will join the BJP or not. Another BJP leader, who also did not want to be quoted, however, said there have been “informal talks" with regard to defections.
However, analysts are surprised by the meeting. Ahmed, the MLA Bodhan seat (which falls under the Nizamabad Lok Sabha constituency) is considered to be a close aide of K. Kavitha, the daughter of chief minister and TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR). Kavitha, a former Nizamabad MP, had lost the seat to Arvind in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The meeting between Ahmed and Arvind comes at a time when some leaders are reportedly dissatisfied over being denied cabinet berths. This had led to talk within the party that BJP’s state unit aims to poach disgruntled leaders.
The unhappy TRS leaders include former home minister Nayini Narsimha Reddy and former deputy chief minister T. Rajaiah, both of whom made their displeasure public, though Reddy later retracted his stance saying that there were no problems in the TRS. Prior to this, there was talk in TRS circles that state health minister Eatala Rajender would lose his cabinet berth (before the expansion by KCR. The minister, however, responded by saying in public, “we are the owners of the pink flag (TRS flag)". Rajender’s name was not dropped.
In wake of these developments, political circles have been abuzz with talks of TRS MLAs aiming to shift to BJP, which has so far seen an influx from Congress and a weakened Telugu Desam Party (TDP). “We are not looking to poach MLAs. However, we are open to anyone who wants to join us, provided they work within the framework of the party and its ideology," said Krishna Saagar Rao, BJP chief spokesperson for Telangana.