New Delhi: Less than a week after Congress faced a huge setback in Telangana, where 12 of its MLAs merged with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the party has come up with a strategy to counter the Speaker’s decision to let them continue as legislators.
The state Congress, which has moved the Telangana High Court challenging the Speaker’s decision as being “unconstitutional”, is set to argue that all 12 MLAs did not join the Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao-led TRS at the same time.
The court is expected to hear the matter today.
The 12 MLAs make up two-thirds of the party’s 18 legislators in Telangana. They had cited this to escape the anti-defection law.
According to the state Congress, it has twice approached the Governor, on 23 March and 25 April, apart from “multiple petitions” to the Speaker as the MLAs had begun defecting from 2 March. Speaker P. Srinivas Reddy has, however, accepted the merger of the Congress MLAs with TRS while allowing them to retain their posts.
KCR’s TRS won the assembly election in December 2018 by a massive mandate, winning 88 of the 119 seats in the assembly, 25 more than its 2014 tally.
The Congress initially had 19 MLAs in the government and was the main opposition party but it has now been reduced to six. Apart from the 12 MLAs who defected, state Congress chief Uttam Kumar Reddy tendered his resignation after being elected to the Lok Sabha.
The Congress strategy
According to a report sent by the state leadership to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the “horse trading and purchase of MLAs, one after the other”, has been on since 2 March.
The report states that the Speaker’s order “gives the impression that the 12 MLAs met on Thursday and decided to merge with the TRS”, but adds that this was not the case.
The report collates the alleged dates on which each of the legislators switched sides to the TRS.
According to the report, the first two to defect on 2 March were Kantha Rao Rega and Athram Sakku. They were followed by Chirumarthi Lingaiah (10 March), Haripriya Banoth (11 March), Sabitha Indra Reddy (13 March), Kandala Upender Reddy (14 March), Devireddy Sudheer Reddy (15 March), Vanama Rao (18 March), Beeram Reddy (20 March), Jajala Surender (27 March), Gandra Venkata Reddy (22 April) and Rohith Reddy (6 June).
The report states that it was only when Rohith Reddy moved to the TRS on 6 June, he effectively provided the defectors with the two-thirds majority needed to fall outside the ambit of the anti-defection law.
“It’s very simple, all 12 of them did not move to TRS on the same day. Since they moved over time, they should be disqualified and not be able to escape the anti-defection law. “We have challenged this in court,” a senior leader in the Congress told ThePrint.
“This is just sadistic on part of KCR,” said a source in the Congress. “He didn’t need the legislators, he has only done it to weaken the Congress because he is afraid that we are the only party that can challenge him in the state.”
Why the defections
The senior leader alleged that pure money power swayed the legislators to defect. “It has nothing to do with the Lok Sabha elections,” he said. “You have to understand that Telangana has many businessmen-turned-politicians who depend on the state to function.”
According to him, a number of legislators switched sides because the government was blocking their projects.