In yet another blow to the Congress in Telangana, senior leader and legislator Gandra Venkata Ramana Reddy Monday night quit the party and announced that he was joining the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Venkata Ramana Reddy is the 11th Congress MLA to switch loyalty since last month.
The MLA from Bhoopalapalli constituency, who, along with his wife, called on TRS Working President K. T. Rama Rao, later told reporters that he has decided to join the TRS as Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is working hard to make Telangana the number one state.
Venkat Reddy is the first MLA to quit Congress after April 11 elections to all 17 Lok Sabha seats in the states. With the latest defection, the Congress tally in the 119-member Assembly has come down to eight.
The Congress had won 19 seats in the Assembly elections held in December. Meanwhile, another Congress legislator T. Jayaprakash Reddy, better known as Jagga Reddy, on Monday did not deny reports that he is also planning to join the TRS. "Time will decide whether I will remain in the Congress or not," he said.
With speculation that two more legislators are planning to quit, the number of MLAs leaving Congress will go up to two-thirds. This will pave way for the Assembly Speaker to recognize the merger of Congress legislators with the TRS.
The TRS, which had bagged 88 seats in 119-member Assembly in the elections held in December, has crossed the 100 mark with the defection of several Congress MLAs, one legislator of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and two independents.
With the Assembly session scheduled in June, the defected legislators of the Congress may request the Assembly Speaker to recognize their merger with the ruling party. Under the anti-defection law, if two-third of the legislators of a party defect, they will not attract disqualification.
The Congress may even lose the status of main opposition party as it requires 10 percent of the total strength of the House. If this happens, Leader of Opposition Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka stands to lose the title, and along with it, benefits of a cabinet minister rank.
The opposition party has already demanded that the defectors be disqualified.