TRS president and Telangana state Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao seems to be working on more defections from the Congress to ensure that the party is deprived of the Leader of Opposition status when the Assembly meets after the Lok Sabha elections.

The Congress has already lost its Opposition status in the Telangana Legislative Council soon after the election results in December 2018, when the TRS engineered several defections.

Sources in the TRS say that defections of MLAs from the Congress will not stop with the two Congress MLAs Atram Sakku and Rega Kantha Rao announcing on Saturday that they were joining the TRS.

It is only the beginning and in coming days there will be more defections.

On the day Assembly election results were announced on December 7, 2018, Mr Rao told that with the debacle of the Prajakutami, many senior MLAs who had won were worried and had made contact with him and expressed their desire to join the TRS. The CM has not revealed the names of these persons even to his confidants.

Five Congress MLAs from North Telangana districts and four MLAs from South Telangana districts are said to be in touch with the Chief Minister. There is speculation that a Congress woman MLA will be taken into the Cabinet soon after her entry into the TRS.

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The Congress won 10 seats in North Telangana and nine seats in South Telangana in December. With Atram Sakku and Rega Kantha Rao quitting the Congress, the party’s strength in the House is now 17. Seven more MLAs need to defect to the TRS if the Congress is to be denied the status of the main Opposition party in the House.

The Congress enjoys that status now as it has more than one-tenth of the MLAs. Senior Congress MLA M. Bhatti Vikramarka is currently the Leader of the Oppo-sition in the Telangana Legislative Assembly.

It may be recalled that the Congress had lost its status as the main Opposition party in the State Legislative Council soon after the Assembly elections.

The election results were announced on December 11, 2018, and on December 21, four Congress MLCs — M.S. Prabhakar Rao, T. Santo-sh Kumar, K. Damodar Reddy and Akula Lalitha — met the Telangana State Legislative Council Chairman Swamy Goud and petitioned him to “merge” them with the TRS.

The very next day, December 22, the Chairman issued a notification merging the four members with the TRS, and another notification cancelling the recognition of Mohammed Ali Shabbir as Leader of Opposition in the Council.

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TRS leaders are expecting something similar in the Assembly soon after the parliamentary elections.

The opposition party also tried to put a lid on calls for change in Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee leadership at an emergency meeting of the Congress Legislature Party on Sunday. TPCC president N Uttam Kumar Reddy said discussions at the CLP meeting should be kept confidential but by then, the damage was done with Munugode MLA Komatireddy Rajgopal Reddy revealing that he told the CLP that TPCC leadership needs change. The meeting was called to discuss the party MLAs joining TRS and what could be done to prevent further desertions.

Meanwhile, Congress MLAs after the CLP meeting, sat on a dharna outside the Assembly complex opposite the Gandhi statue in the Assembly. They demanded that TRS immediately stop luring the party’s MLAs. Of the 19 Congress MLAs, only 15 attended the meeting. While Sakku and Kantha Rao’s absence was expected, also missing were Rohit Reddy and Upender Reddy, who, according to the party, informed the CLP ahead of the meeting that they would not be able to attend it.

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Uttam Kumar Reddy said his party will complain to the Election Commission and seek a ban on Atram Sakku and Rega Kantha Rao, the two party MLAs, who announced that they were joining TRS, from voting in the March 12 MLC elections. “They should be disqualified,” he said.

The TPCC president accused the Chief Minister of “indulging in cheap politics.” He said “we cooperated with the TRS in the election of Deputy Speaker. And now, the Chief Minister should reveal just for how much our two MLAs were bought over by the TRS.” He said this was being done by the TRS to undermine the chances of the Congress candidate in the MLA quota MLC election.

Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka, speaking at the protest on Sunday, said his party will hold state-wide demonstrations, including in Pinapaka and Asifabad constituencies represented by Sakku and Kantha Rao.

“Our MLAs will take part in the protests on March 8 and educate people on how Sakku and Kantha Rao had betrayed their trust and votes cast for Congress candidates”, he said. “Our party wants a wide discussion on MLAs ‘jumping ship’ and joining other parties, he said. #KhabarLive