Hyderabad, March 15 (IANS) With six MLAs crossing over to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the last 15 days, the opposition Congress party in Telangana looks demoralised ahead of next month's Lok Sabha elections.
The series of defection by MLAs including senior leader and former Home Minister Sabitha Indra Reddy has plunged the party in utter chaos in the run-up to April 11 polls for 17 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
At a time when Congress leaders were trying to recover from the shocked defeat in Assembly elections held in December, the desertions have rattled the leadership and upset their calculations for the ensuing polls.
While the Congress party's tally has come down to 13 in the 119-member Assembly, the TRS has further bolstered itself to achieve its goal of a clean sweep in the Lok Sabha elections.
TRS Working President K.T. Rama Rao has already started campaigning with an appeal to people to elect 16 candidates of TRS, leaving Hyderabad for its ally Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM).
The ruling party, which won 88 Assembly seats, is eyeing eight more Congress MLAs to make sure the defectors do not attract disqualification under the Anti-Defection Law.
If two-third legislators of Congress party defect, it may be recognised as merger of Congress Legislature Party (CLP) with TRS.
If two more Congress MLA switch loyalty, the party may lose the status of main opposition in the Assembly as the party requires minimum 10 per cent of the members in the House.
The Congress lost the status of main opposition in Legislative Council in December when four of its members defected to TRS. Legislative Council Chairman Swamy Goud recognised their merger with the TRS.
With the strength of the Congress reduced to two in 40-member Council, party legislator Mohammed Ali Shabbir lost the post of Leader of Opposition. This was the first major shock for Congress after biting the dust in Assembly elections.
The defections of MLAs started on March 2 with two tribal MLAs switching loyalties to the ruling party. This evoked strong protest from the leaders of Congress party, who accused the TRS of engineering defections in view of the elections to five seats of the Legislative Council from MLA quota on March 12.
As 21 votes were required to win a seat, Congress had fielded a candidate, hoping to get both votes of its ally Telugu Desam Party (TDP). After defection of two Congress MLAs, one of the two TDP MLAs also crossed over to TRS, dashing all hopes of Congress.
Since then, the Congress has been losing a MLA almost every day. Jolted by desertions, the Congress boycotted the Council elections, accusing TRS of murdering the democracy.
The biggest jolt came when Sabitha Indra Reddy, a key leader from Ranga Reddy district bordering Hyderabad, met Rama Rao last Sunday at the residence of MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
After preliminary talks with Rama Rao, she met his father and Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao on March 13, reportedly to bargain for a ministerial berth for herself and Lok Sabha ticket for her son Karthik Reddy.
CLP leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka has alleged that TRS was murdering democracy in Telangana by resorting to horse-trading.
TRS leader Rama Rao, however, said Congress MLAs were joining TRS on their own as they were impressed with the development and welfare programmes taken up by the government.