With the ruling party of Telugu state encouraging en masse defections, democracy is a mere word
On 06 June, the Telangana Assembly earned the dubious distinction of a House without Opposition.
Twelve Congress MLAs on Thursday sought the Speaker’s approval to merge themselves with the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS).
The Speaker promptly approved their request and the merger was notified within hours. Seats have also been allotted for them in the House among the treasury benches.
Heralding a new phase in the Assembly of the newest state of India, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a friend and ally of the TRS, has become the second biggest party with seven members.
The Congress, which won 19 seats in the 2018 elections, has been reduced to just six members.
The sudden development, though not quite unexpected was triggered by the resignations of PCC (Pradesh Congress Committee) president N Uttam Kumar Reddy, who got elected to the Lok Sabha in the recent elections, and Tandur Congress MLA Rohit Reddy.
The Congress was visibly annoyed at the development. Party spokesperson Pawan Khera said it was a “a daylight murder of democracy” and that it “amounted to butchering of the people's mandate, which the people of Telangana would never forgive.”
Uttam Kumar Reddy called out the TRS for “shamelessly purchasing its leaders.”
“This is a murder of democracy and a brazen step by chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao. People voted for them... for the Congress. Buying those (Congress) MLAs by KCR is shameful. People of Telangana will not tolerate him for such shameful activities. You cannot remove the main opposition party (from the Assembly). You better shift the Assembly to your (KCR's) farmhouse,” an angry Reddy said. “This is completely illegal. KCR is cheating the mandate of the people of Telangana.”
Reddy also said that efforts to reach the Speaker of the Telangana Assembly did not bear fruit.
“We tried to contact him by every means but he wasn't available for us. But in some secret place, the Speaker took representations from the defected Congress MLAs against whom disqualification notices under anti-defection law are pending with him, and announces merger of Congress Legislature Party. Can anything be more disgraceful?” he asked.
The strength of the TRS in the 119-member House has gone up from 90 to a whopping 102. Now the Assembly is almost a single party House as the second largest party AIMIM has long ceased to be, in effect, a separate party.
People treat this party of Hyderabad old city as the minority wing of the TRS. The lone TDP (Telugu Desam Party) MLA has already joined the TRS.
The wheel has come full circle. First KCR (Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) removed the YSR Congress from the Telangana scene.
YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy withdrew gracefully. His three MLAs were the first to merge with the TRS in 2016. Later the lone MP switched over to the TRS.
Then the TDP was targeted. Its legislature party merged with the TRS in the last Assembly. Finally the party disappeared from the Telangana Assembly with its lone TDP MLA defecting to the TRS.
Now KCR has successfully engineered a split in the Congress which is bound to lose Opposition status.
Engineering a split in the legislature party and then encouraging them to merge with the ruling party, to circumvent the provisions of anti-defection law are a strategy perfected by KCR.
In the previous Assembly as well, a similar split was created in the 15-member TDP and the breakaway faction later merged with the TRS.
Why has Telangana’s Bahubali KCR embarked on the physical liquidation of political parties? The possible reason looks like a complex socio-political one.
KCR had a bitter experience with all political parties led by castes that he does not belong to. Though he was an ally of the Congress between 2004 and 2009, the then chief minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy had reportedly masterminded a split in the TRS. But his sudden death put paid to his plans.
A couple of TRS ministers did join the Congress. And YSR ensured that KCR never raised the Telangana bogey as long as he was the chief minister.
His rivalry with the TDP was classic, which was responsible for his launching of the Telangana movement.
KCR felt humiliated when Naidu refused him a cabinet berth, and this animosity was also tinged with hatred for Kammas and their colonisation of Telangana especially Hyderabad.
Post the formation of Telangana, KCR was annoyed by the Telangana Congress leaders’ personalised attacks on his personality and family members.
These factors appear to have forced KCR to be intolerant of two major political parties, TDP and Congress, which are led by two major castes Kammas and Reddys respectively.
The result is the dramatic split in legislative wings of these two parties followed by a merger with the TRS.
Killing the Congress, many political pundits believe, would be at KCR’s own peril. They point out that if KCR kills the liberal Congress there is no other party that would occupy the space vacated by the GOP other than the nationalist BJP which has enormous resources at his disposal.
KCR appears to be adamant and not bothered about what to him seem now imaginary consequences.
“It is only a theory,” said a political commentator who is also a KCR supporter, on condition of anonymity.
“BJP will never strike roots in Telangana soil, at least in the near future. Even if Congress declines in Telangana, KCR won’t allow anybody to fill the space, leave alone BJP. He himself will occupy the vacuum by winning over the newer segments of society. He will reduce all political parties into marginal players. His target for 2024 is to cross 50 percent vote share which is now just 46 percent,” he said.
Yes, KCR has the streak of a dictator, he admitted.
Commenting on the BJP upsurge in the just concluded Lok Sabha election, he said – “It is only a one-time chance. The setback for TRS was the result of the strategic voting the Congress devised to defeat TRS. As they were not in a winning position, the Congress party asked its cadre to vote for BJP. Such events do not recur,” he said.
KCR, according to the analyst, is emulating the politics of Naveen Patnaik, with a slight difference. Patnaik, he said, had never resorted to the tactic of entertaining en masse defections.
“In Odisha, Congress decline has not necessarily opened the doors for BJP. In the recent elections, BJD formed the government winning 112 seats in a House of 146. BJD has reduced the BJP (23) and Congress (9) as minor players. This is the state of affairs even after five elections. And KCR appears to be visualising an Odisha like scenario in Telangana as well,” he said.