The Telugu Desam Party, which aspired to play a bigger role in Telangana as an opposition party, has been reduced to two from its original tally of 15 seats in the state Legislative Assembly. Speaker S. Madhusudhana Chary has announced the merger of 12 TDP MLAs with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi on Friday, acting on a petition of the defected legislators.
Of the remaining three TDP MLAs, one more—S. Venkata Veeraiah (Sattupalli)—is set to join the ruling party in a few days, while another R. Krishnaiah (L.B. Nagar) has announced his decision to be an unattached member in the House.
So, by the middle of the Assembly’s budget session, which began on Thursday, the TDP will be left with a lone member—A. Revanth Reddy (Kodangal).
This comes close on the heels of TRS winning three more civic bodies recently—Greater Warangal Municipal Corporation, Khammam Municipal Corporation and Atchampet municipality, for which elections were held on 6 March and results were out on Wednesday. Coupled with that, TRS supremo and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao has decided to poach TDP MLAs as the party was trying to stage a comeback in the state. He has admitted nine MLAs from other parties like Congress, BSP and YSR Congress. KCR’s main target was TDP, which shares a common vote base with his TRS.
Revanth Reddy, the prime accused in the cash-for-vote scam related to bribing a nominated MLA to win the legislative council elections in June 2015, will be the leader of TDP in the Assembly now. As TDP’s present leader E. Dayakar Rao led the defectors and gave the merger letter to the Speaker, all the 12 TDP members were seated with TRS members, taking their tally to 84 in a House of 119.
The Speaker’s decision to recognise TDP defectors as the split group and allow them to be merged with the ruling party drew heckles from the opposition ranks. The opposition TDP, Congress and the Left cried foul and termed the merger as “murder of democracy”. The ruling party maintained that the TDP MLAs have joined them to strengthen the development of the state.
The 12 TDP MLAs who were declared to have merged with TRS are: E. Dayakar Rao, T. Srinivas Yadav, Prakash Goud, Teegala Krishna Reddy, G. Sayanna, Manchireddy Kishan Reddy, Madhavaram Krishna Rao, K.P. Vivekananda, Challa Dharma Reddy, S. Rajender Reddy, Maganti Gopinath and Arekapudi Gandhi. Gopinath is the president of TDP’s Hyderabad city unit.
KCR made Srinivas Yadav a minister in his Cabinet last year and entrusted him with the task of wooing other TDP MLAs. Though there was criticism that Yadav hasn’t resigned his Sanathnagar Assembly seat and sought a fresh election, KCR ignored it all. Now that the Speaker has recognised Yadav was one of the members of the TDP split group, there is no need for his re-election.
Legislative Affairs Minister T. Harish Rao, who coordinated the entire merger process in the House, told The Sunday Guardian that the joining of TDP members has only highlighted the will of the people in the state. “These MLAs have joined us only after sensing the mood of the public in successive elections in the past 21 months; we cannot call them defections,” he said.
Revanth Reddy argued that the ruling party is “buying opposition MLAs” with power and pelf. “This is a naked murder of democracy. TRS has won 63 seats in the 2014 elections. There was no need for them to encourage defections from our ranks. But the TRS leadership is afraid of its own MLAs and wants to make sure of its majority by buying our members,” he said.
Even Telangana Pradesh Congress committee president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy attacked KCR for trying to eliminate the opposition in the Assembly. “We have given petitions to the Speaker seeking disqualification of four of our MLAs—K. Yadaiah, D.S. Reddya Naik, Vithal Reddy and K. Kanakaiah—who joined TRS,” he said.
Besides, two BSP MLAs—A. Indrakaran Reddy and Koneru Konappa—have joined TRS immediately after the elections and Indrakaran Reddy was made a minister (endowments). Two more MLAs from YSR Congress—Madan Lal and Tati Venkateswarlu—too joined TRS last year. YSR Congress MLAs, too, would merge with TRS in the Assembly, sources said.
One more TDP MLA, Venkat Veeraiah is also expected to join TRS soon. He is currently facing a CID probe in the cash-for-votes scam and is out on bail after a brief arrest in July 2015.
Another TDP MLA, Krishanaih is an eminent activist of OBCs in the state for the past four decades. “Now, I want to concentrate on the issues of OBCs, and leave TDP,” he told this newspaper on the Assembly premises on Friday.