4 Telangana Congress MLCs defect to TRS

Hyderabad: Compounding the Congress’ woes in Telangana, four of its six MLCs defected to the ruling TRS on Friday and were promptly recognised by the Legislative Council chairman as members of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

The development came barely 10 days after the opposition party’s debacle in the assembly polls. On a day of swift developments, the four Congress MLCs – M S Prabhakar Rao, T Santosh Kumar, K Damoder Reddy and Akula Lalitha – met Legislative Council Chairman K Swamy Goud and petitioned him to “merge” them with the TRS.

Hours later, the Council secretary issued a bulletin informing members of the House about the chairman recognising the “merger.” “All the members are informed that the Hon’ble Chairman, Telangana Legislative Council, has recognised the merger of Congress Legislature Party in the Telangana Legislative Council with the Telangana Rashtra Samiti Legislature Party in the Telangana Legislative Council in terms of paragraph 4 of the Tenth schedule of the Constitution of India,” the bulletin said.

Two-thirds lawmakers of a party are required to split its legislature group in a House without attracting the provisions of the anti-defection law. The Congress had six members in the 40-member council.

Now it is left with only two – Mohammed Ali Shabbir and P Sudhakar Reddy. The development means that Shabbir, the Leader of the Opposition in the Council, would lose his status for which a party has to have 1/10th of the total strength of the House.

Soon after its four MLCs petitioned the chairman, Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N Uttam Kumar Reddy and Shabbir also met Goud and appealed to him to disqualify them for their alleged anti-party activities.

“As the party president, I wish to convey that there was no meeting of the CLP (in the Council) on December 20 (where the decision by the four MLCs was claimed to have been taken,” Uttam Kumar Reddy said.

He said Prabhakar Rao had defected from the Congress to the TRS in 2016 and a petition for his disqualification was pending with the chairman for the last two years. Similarly, Damodar Reddy had defected to the TRS and his disqualification petition was also pending.

“The Indian National Congress party is a 130-year-old party and it is preposterous that some members, who have already defected to the TRS, are putting an application for merger of the CLP into the TRS party,” Uttam Kumar Reddy said.

In his letter to Goud, the TPCC president contended that the chairman or speaker of the council were not competent authorities to decide on merger of parties. He claimed the Supreme Court had settled the issue through several judgements.

According to the constitution of the Indian National Congress, state units have no power to merge with other parties, Reddy said. “A national party cannot be merged with a regional political party. Seeking (a) merger per se incurs disqualification. Rank and file of a political party throughout the nation have to accept the merger,” he said.

Para 4 of the 10th Schedule of the Constitution is not independent and it has to be read in harmony with other paras, he added. The Congress suffered a drubbing in the recent Telangana assembly polls.

The party, which formed a “grand alliance” with the TDP, CPI and the Telangana Jan Samithi, managed to win only 19 seats in the 119-member House. The TRS scored a thumping win and returned to power for a second straight term winning 88 seats.