In a setback to the beleaguered Congress, one of its two Lok Sabha members from Telangana—Gutta Sukhender Reddy—is all set to defect to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi in the next few days. Along with him, a group of senior Congress leaders, including former MP G. Vivek and his elder brother and former minister G. Vinod, too, are likely to join the TRS.
With this, the Congress’ strength in the Lok Sabha is set to come down from 45 to 44, its original tally after the 2014 general elections.
Sukhender Reddy, a two-time MP, won from Nalgonda in 2009 and 2014 by massive margins.
Now, Nandi Yelliah, who won from Nagar Kurnool (SC), will be the only MP left with the Congress from Telangana. The Congress has won two MPs and 21 MLAs in the 2014 elections. But seven MLAs had since joined the TRS.
The Congress leadership is likely to press for the disqualification of Sukhender Reddy if he defects to the TRS, as there are stringent anti-defection laws in existence. But, sources in the TRS told The Sunday Guardian on Saturday that Reddy would quit his LS seat and force a byelection to Nalgonda seat by the end of the year.
Sukhender Reddy, who called on Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao several times in the past few days, is believed to have expressed his desire to become an MLC on a TRS ticket and then become a minister at a later stage. KCR has given his nod for this and is toying with the idea of fielding TRS MLC Palla Rajeswar Reddy for Nalgonda LS by-poll.
Sukhender Reddy, in turn, will be fielded for the MLC seat from local bodies’ constituency on a TRS ticket and he would be sent to the Legislative Council. “Of course, we will have to face the challenge of winning the Nalgonda LS by-poll due to the changes, but we are ready to face the test and are confident of winning the seat by a huge margin like many other by-polls recently,” a senior TRS leader told this newspaper.
Other senior leaders, Vivek and Vinod, too have met KCR in the past two weeks and secured his approval to join TRS, along with Sukhender Reddy. KCR seems to have assured them that their political interests would be taken care of, though the details are not available immediately. “The CM has assured them to utilise their services effectively,” said a source close to the CM.
Former AP Assembly Speaker K.R. Suresh Reddy’s name, too, figured among the list of probables to join the TRS. However, he denied such reports on the ground that he never planned to leave the Congress.
Suresh Reddy denied reports on his defection after he called on former Union minister S. Jaipal Reddy who swung into action to placate the dissident Congress leaders who are likely to join the TRS.
Jaipal Reddy, apparently acting on the advice of AICC general secretary in-charge of Telangana, Digvijaya Singh, convened a meeting of the rebel leaders at his Jubilee Hills residence on Friday night. Reddy urged them not to leave the Congress at a time when the party was in a critical condition. However, Sukhender Reddy, Vivek and Vinod are learnt to have refused to rethink their exit plans.
Sources said that Vivek, who lost from Peddapalli (SC) LS seat in 2014, would be appointed as an adviser, with Cabinet rank, to the state government in place of D. Srinivas who has been elected to the Rajya Sabha last week.
Vivek and his brother Vinod are sons of former Union minister G. Venkata Swamy and were among the staunch loyalists of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Their exit would be a blow to the Congress in Telangana.