Telangana defection

Hyderabad: A day after two-thirds of its 18 MLAs crossed over to ruling TRS, the embattled Congress in Telangana Friday said it would move the high court on Monday. It announced State-wide protests against the Assembly Speaker’s decision recognising their merger after the defection.

Also alleging that the MLAs were ‘purchased’ by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the party said it would approach the Lokpal and also raise the issue in coming Parliament session.

As Congress activists took to streets in various parts of Telangana Friday protesting against the merger, State Congress president Uttam Kumar Reddy announced that the Leader of the Opposition in the assembly Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka will stage a 36-hour long fast here from 11 AM Saturday. He also said Congress would hold protest demonstrations across the State from Saturday.

In a dramatic turn of events, Telangana Assembly Speaker P Srinivas Reddy Thursday recognised 12 MLAs of Congress as members of TRS hours after they moved him seeking a merger of their group with the ruling party.

The Speaker acceded to the request of the MLAs considering the fact they constituted two-thirds of the Congress Legislature Party, a requirement for the merger under the anti-defection law.

The Congress had won 19 seats in the assembly polls in December last year, but in the past few months, 11 of the MLAs had switched loyalties to the TRS though officially they did not resign.

A day after Uttam Kumar Reddy resigned as MLA following his victory in the Lok Sabha elections and the seat was declared vacant, Rohith Reddy Thursday joined the rebels, boosting their strength to the two-thirds figure of 12.

The MLAs have said they were joining the TRS for the development of the State.

A bulletin from the assembly Thursday night said seats had been alloted to the 12 MLAs along with the members of the Telangana Rastra Samithi Legislature Party in the House.

Unless the merger is reversed, the Congress is set to lose its Opposition Party status in the assembly as its strength has come down to six.

The setback to the Congress in Telangana came at a time when the party has been on the backfoot in several States including Karnataka and Rajasthan following dissidence among its ranks after the Lok Sabha elections drubbing.

Addressing reporters here Friday, Uttam Kumar Reddy said the party would file a petition in the Telangana High Court on Monday against the merger of its MLAs.

There is already one petition pending in the high court (related to the defection of MLAs). On Monday, we are filing another petition and on 11 June, our earlier petition will come up for hearing,” he said.

He said the party was collecting evidence in support of its case to be filed before the Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman.

The State Congress chief also alleged that Speaker Reddy visited the residence of the Chief Minister, but did not elaborate.

“There is corruption involved in the purchase of MLAs and also the Speaker going to the residence of the Chief Minister is illegal. He as the Constitutional head is not supposed to go the CMs house, Uttam Kumar Reddy said.

Congress general secretary in-charge of party affairs in Telangana RC Khuntia, who was also present, said the issue of defection will be raised in the next Parliament session.

The party will highlight how Vikramarka, a Dalit leader, was deprived of an opportunity to act as a Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly.

As the Congress strength has come down to six, one less than that of AIMIM, it may lose the status of the main opposition party in the 119-member House.

After the Speakers decision to recognise the merger, the TRS strength rose to 100. An independent and one member each from Telugu Desam Party and AIFB have already pledged their support to TRS.

The TRS Friday defended the action of the Congress MLAs, saying they have done so keeping in mind their political future and blamed the Rahul Gandhi-led party for failure to keep its flock together.

Party spokesperson Abid Rasool Khan claimed the 12 MLAs decided to become part of TRS because of the development and welfare programmes of the government and “positiveness” of voters towards the ruling party.

TRS MLC Satyavati Rathod said her party had won five of the seven zila parishad territorial constituencies in the rural local body polls in Uttam Kumar Reddy’s constituency and claimed it showed people were not trusting the Congress party.

Congress activists Friday held demonstrations at Warangal, Karimnagar and other places protesting the 12 MLAs joining the TRS.

A group of students of the Osmania University here took out a protest rally and symbolically performed “last rites” of the MLAs who switched over, a Congress release said.