Congress in surrender mode: ‘Gifts’ MLC seat to KCR

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Hyderabad, March 11: The Congress party in Telangana State appears to have entered into a surrender-mode before Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao by literally giving a ‘gift’ of one MLC seat which it earlier alleged was being encroached upon illegally by the TRS-MIM combine.

Just a day before the polling, the Congress party has announced that it would boycott the MLC elections, under MLAs’ quota, to be held on March 12 for election of 5 MLCs. The boycott will lead to unanimous election of all five candidates of TRS-MIM. The announcement of boycott was made in a press conference on Monday by Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC) president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and Congress Legislature Party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka.

There are six candidates in the fray for five MLCs seats. They are Mohd Mahmood Ali (Home Minister), Mallesham Yegge, Seri Subhash Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod of TRS, Gudur Narayana Reddy of Congress party and Mirza Riyazul Hassan Effendi of MIM.

When the nominations were filed, Congress party had 19 MLAs while TDP had two legislators. This strength of 21 votes was sufficient for the Congress to win the MLC seat. However, in the last 9 days, three MLAs from Congress – Athram Sakku, Rega Kantha Rao and Haripriya Naik and Sandra Venkata Veeraiah of TDP defected to the ruling TRS party. There were also reports of former minister and Maheshwaram MLA P. Sabitha Indira Reddy leaving the Congress party to join TRS. Therefore, the Congress now lacked sufficient numbers to win the seat.

Although the Congress defeat in MLC elections was imminent, it could have used the elections to fix the defected MLCs. It could have issued a Whip asking all Congress MLAs to vote for the official candidate (Gudur Narayana Reddy). Since violation of Whip leads to disqualification under Anti-Defection Law, the Congress party could have dragged the defectors to court, in case the Speaker does not act on the disqualification petition. Further, the Congress party could also have challenged the election of 5th candidate.

However, by deciding to boycott the elections, Congress leadership not only bailed out the MLAs who defected to TRS, but also ensured a smooth victory of all five candidates of TRS and MIM.

According to sources, the Congress leadership feared that KCR might lure many more Congress MLAs to TRS to the extent that the party loses its status of main opposition in the Assembly. In the 119-member House, Congress needs at least 12 MLAs to get the position of Leader of Opposition. With three-four MLAs already switching sides, TRS needs just four more legislators to strip Congress of the position of main opposition in Assembly. It already did the same thing in Legislative Council where four out of six MLCs joined TRS and sought merger. With the term of remaining two MLCs – Shabbir Ali and Ponguleti Sudhakhar Reddy coming to an end on March 29, the Legislative Council will be ‘Congress Mukt’.

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