The crisis in Telangana's main opposition Congress deepened further on Sunday with another legislator deciding to join the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). Vanama Venkateshwara Rao announced after a meeting with Chief Minister and TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao that he is joining the ruling party.
Vanama Rao, who represents Kothagudem constituency in the state Assembly, is the eighth Congress MLA to cross over to the TRS this month. This has brought down the opposition party's tally in the 119-member Assembly to 11. It had won 19 seats in the Assembly elections held on December 7. The TRS had won 88 seats in the polls but it has since seen a slew of defectors joining the party, taking its total tally closer to a 100.
With the latest defection, the Congress may now lose the status of main opposition in the Assembly as it requires at least 10 percent of the members in the House, which means that it would need at least 12 MLAs out of 119, failing which Leader of Opposition Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka stands to lose the benefits of a cabinet minister rank.
According to the norms, if two-third MLAs of a party defect, they will not attract disqualification under Anti-Defection Law and can be recognised as a separate block, which in turn, can seek for its merger with an existing party.
In this particular case, with reports of four more MLAs being in touch with the TRS, the defected MLAs may petition the Speaker to recognise the merger of Congress Legislature Party with the TRS.
This would come as a huge blow to the Congress, as in December last year, Telangana State Legislative Council Chairman K Swamy Goud 'approved' the merger of four MLCs into the TRS Legislative Party in the stateās Legislative Council. The chairman ratified the defection, thereby cancelling the 'Opposition' status that Congress enjoyed in the Council.
While this move was challenged in the Telangana High Court, which served notices to the Chairman, the matter is still subjudice.
Losing one MLA almost every day, Congress appears totally demoralised ahead of April 11 elections to all 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Earlier this week, a day after it was reported that senior Congress leader and legislator Sabitha Indra Reddy was defecting to the TRS, another Congress MLA Kandala Upender Reddy from Palair, met TRS working president KT Rama Rao in his office.
The Congress has accused the TRS of hatching a conspiracy to finish off the opposition. CLP leader Malu Bhatti Vikramarka demanded dismissal of the TRS government, accusing it of running the state in feudal, undemocratic and unconstitutional manner. The party plans to meet Governor E S L Narasimhan on Monday to submit a memorandum in this regard.