Telangana’s triangular paradox: BRS legislators shift to Congress but voters to BJP

Revanth Reddy made no bones about admitting BRS MLAs into Congress though one of the Panch Nyays of Congress was to not encourage defections.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jul 10, 2024 | 12:00 PM Updated Jul 10, 2024 | 12:20 PM

Telangana voters MLAs

In an interesting paradox in Telangana, people who voted for the BRS in the Assembly elections have shifted to the BJP in the recent Lok Sabha elections, but the pink party MLAs are showing interest in joining the Congress.

Though the BRS had won 39 seats in the November-December 2023 Assembly elections, it is unable to keep its flock together.

Its tally went down to 38 when its Secunderabad Cantonment MLA Lasya Nandita died in a road accident in February.

Then, six BRS MLAs —Danam Nagender, Kadiam Srihari, Pocharam Srinivas Reddy, M Sajay Kumar, Tellam Venkat Rao, and Kale Yadaiah have shifted to the Congress. Many more MLAs are said to be contemplating crossing the Rubicon.

Also Read: ‘Rahul Gandhi deserves an Oscar for pretending to protect Constitution’: KTR on defections

Aiming for a merger

The game plan of the Congress is clear. It is trying to implement what has come to be known as the ‘merger strategy’. The party is now wolfing down on the BRS legislators as if there is no tomorrow and benching them until their number reaches 25, which is two-thirds of the BRS’ strength in the Assembly.

When the target is reached, the entire lot would merge in the Congress. As two-thirds of BRS MLAs join the Congress, it would be termed as the merger of the BRSLP into the Congress and not defection, in accordance with the provisions of the amended Anti-Defection Act. It would then be history repeating itself – only this time, BRS is on the receiving end.

Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy made no bones about admitting the BRS MLAs into the Congress though one of the ‘Panch Nyays’ of the Congress was to not encourage defection.

He said, at a news conference in Delhi recently, that as there was a threat of the BRS and BJP together making an attempt to topple his government, he was admitting MLAs from the BRS into the party to make the government more stable.

With just 64 seats, plus its ally CPI’s one, the party has a wafer-thin majority of 65 in the 119-seat Assembly which is too an irresistible opportunity for the BRS and the BJP to pass up to pull the rug from under Revanth Reddy’s feet.

Vote share of the parties

Interestingly if one looks at the percentage of votes that the BRS, the BJP and the Congress got in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections held in November 2023 and June 2024, the vote share of the Congress remained more or less intact while the BJP’s rose sharply.

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won eight of the 17 seats in the state by claiming 40.10 percent of the votes cast.

In the Assembly elections, held in November-December last year, it won 64 seats with a vote share of 39.4 percent. This indicates that the vote share remained more or less the same for the Congress.

But the vote share of the BJP which was 13.9 percent with eight seats in the Assembly elections rose to 35.08 percent in Lok Sabha elections with as many seats. That means it gained 21.87 percent more votes than in Assembly elections which is more or less equal to BRS’ loss which is about 20.67 percent.

The BRS has claimed a vote share of 37.35 percent in the Assembly elections which crashed to 16.68 percent with zero seats in Lok Sabha polls.

Also Read: Six BRS MLCs deliver midnight sucker punch to party, join Congress in Telangana

BRS voters shift to BJP

The poll figures indicate a preference of the BRS voters for the BJP. There might be several macro-factors that may have led the pro-BRS voters to support the BJP like the saffron party being in power at the centre. But one factor that may have influenced them to support the BJP is the fact that the BRS’ fortunes were sliding fast. The BJP seemed to be more attractive to them than the Congress.

The shift of the BRS voters’ preference to the BJP has helped the lotus bloom in Telangana in the Lok Sabha elections. It improved its score to eight from four in the 2019 elections, a 100 percent increase.

In fact, it is perceived to have wolfed down on the BRS vote bank in the Assembly elections too to some extent which led to its strength rise to eight in the House from just one in the 2018 elections.

BRS MLAs shift to Congress

But the MLAs who won on the BRS ticket seem to be having a different take. If the voters are shifting to the BJP, the pink party’s elected representatives are shifting to the grand old party, which is at the other end of the spectrum.

The reason is not hard to find. Most of the MLAs who forsake the company of KCR joined the grand old party as the grass is greener on this side of the fence.

The allure of the ruling party apart, some of the legislators who did not have any qualms in switching loyalty were those who wanted to protect their ill-gotten wealth.

Ever since the Congress won the Assembly elections and the BRS’s fortunes further plummeted in the Lok Sabha elections, the best bet for them seemed to be the Congress rather than the BJP.

Said a political analyst Budha Murali: “The MLAs who shifted their loyalty were those who wanted to protect the money they made from real estate business which has been booming in and around Hyderabad for the last several years. They had no commitment to Telangana cause or the leadership of the party. It is just to protect their pelf.”

He sees the shift of the voters in favour of the BJP as one influenced by the national factors more than the local issues. “As the BRS is going through a rough patch, its voters shifted to the BJP because they saw no role for the BRS in the national election. It is not as though the voters had forsaken the BRS party,” he said.

Better prospects with Congress

Senior political commentator and journalist S Nagesh Kumar also holds the opinion that the BRS MLAs were joining the Congress as it was the party in power. “In the present circumstances, only the ruling party MLAs stand to gain in allotment of funds for their constituencies. This is one of the important factors that is making the BRS MLAs switch loyalty to the Congress,” he says.

Another reason is that there is no immediate benefit for the MLAs if they choose to join the saffron party. “There is no guarantee that it would become the ruling party one day though it is their wish. It is always better to be in the ruling party than the party which hopes to come to power in the future,” he says.

Another propelling force that is making the BRS MLAs to join the ranks of the Congresses is that the BJP is not as aggressive in reaching out to them.

For the Congress, its immediate need is to ensure stability to the government as it has thin majority in the house. “This is the reason why the Congress is very aggressive in landing the BRS MLAs. The BJP is not in an overdrive in luring the BRS MLAs. For the saffron party, winning a few MLAs to its side does not make much difference as it has only eight MLAs in the House.” says Nagesh Kumar.

Also Read: BRS leader K Keshava Rao returns to Congress fold

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