Crying foul over a spate of defections of its lawmakers to the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Congress in Telangana submitted a fresh petition to assembly Speaker Pocharam Srinivasa Reddy on Tuesday demanding immediate disqualification of the defectors who are now planning form a bloc to formally join the TRS.
On Monday night, senior Congress MLA from Bhupalpally assembly constituency Gandra Venkata Ramana Reddy announced that he was joining the TRS. He, along with his wife Gandra Jyothy, president of Jayashankar Bhupalpally District Congress Committee president, met TRS working president K T Rama Rao and expressed their desire to join the party.
Reddy is the 11th Congress MLA to switch over to the TRS since the assembly elections last December. His defection has whittled down the number of Congress MLAs in the 119-member Assembly to just eight after the party had won 19 seats in the elections. The TRS had won 88 and its ally Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen won seven seats. The Telugu Desam Party won two seats, independents two and BJP one. Both the independents and one TDP MLA later switched their loyalties to the TRS.
None of the Congress MLAs who have defected have resigned from the party nor have they officially joined the TRS. Soon after meeting the top TRS leadership, almost of all of them issued similar statements stating that they decided to join the TRS to fulfil the aspirations of the people of their respective constituencies and that they were attracted towards the development and welfare initiatives of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao.
Constitutional experts say the statements of defected MLAs were enough to draw the provisions of the anti-defection law. “Schedule 10 of the Constitution of India says Speaker will be the deciding authority if there is question on whether the legislators of party have defied the party’s whip or the Constitution. When the MLAs themselves are saying that they were joining the ruling party, it amounts to defection and they can be automatically disqualified,” retired judge of Andhra Pradesh high court Justice P Lakshman Reddy said.
He said unfortunately, the authority to disqualify the defected legislators lies with the Speaker, who is conveniently sitting over the disqualification petitions moved by the parties for several years. “The only solution for this is to amend the Constitution of India seeking to take deterrent action against the defecting MLAs immediately,” he said.
A Congress delegation led by its legislature party leader Mallu Bhatti Vikramarka met the Speaker at Banswada in Nizamabad district and submitted a petition asking for disqualification of MLAs who defected. “The MLAs who defected should feel ashamed of their action. They should resign from their assembly membership before joining the TRS,” Vikramarka said.
The Congress had submitted a similar petition when the defections began.
However, the defectors have other plans. If two more Congress MLAs quit the party and cross over to the TRS, their number will go up to 13. This will enable them to convene a separate CLP meeting and pass a resolution seeking to merge the CLP with the TRS legislature party, so that they could avoid disqualification under anti-defection law.
“We hope two more MLAs will join our camp in a day or two. We are presently discussing with our lawyers and take a decision on calling for a CLP meeting to decide on the merger with the TRS,” Chirumarthi Lingaiah, one of the defectors told reporters.
Justice Lakshman Reddy said it was highly undemocratic for TRS to encourage defections. “The party has enough numbers in the assembly and it appears it does not want to see that there is any opposition in the House. The presence of opposition is very much essential to sustain democracy,” he said.
Apr 23, 2021 17:43 IST