The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) had gone to the elections, claiming it will hit a Virat Kohli-like century. It fell short by 12 seats, finishing at 88. The two independents who were elected, expressed support almost immediately, taking the number to 90.
According to sources very close to the TRS top leadership, newly elected Congress legislators started approaching a key leader in the party almost soon after K Chandrasekhar Rao was sworn in as chief minister for the second term. However, KCR was reportedly reluctant because inducting opposition legislators into the TRS in blatant violation of the anti-defection law during his first term, had earned the government a bad name. 12 of the 15 Telugu Desam MLAs had crossed over to the TRS between 2014-18.
Moreover, unlike 2014 when he had come to power with just 63 MLAs in a house of 119 – just three over the half way mark – this time KCR had a comfortable majority. The Congress MLAs were therefore told, not now.
If the TRS version is to be believed, the turning point was the Congress decision to contest the MLC elections in March 2019. The party fielded Gudur Narayana Reddy as its candidate. The TRS believed it had the right to bag all five MLC seats and the Congress that had received such a severe drubbing ought not to aim for a seat. Technically, the Congress was well within its right to contest as its candidate needed 21 votes to win. The Congress had 19 MLAs and along with two lawmakers of the TDP, its ally during the elections, Reddy would have sailed through.
Once the Congress move was known much before the date of polling on March 12, the TRS decided to open the floodgates. Congress MLAs were encouraged to change their stole to the TRS pink. Each one of them praised KCR’s development agenda and ethic even though they had criticised it bitterly just three months ago on the campaign trail. Eleven of the 19 Congress MLAs have joined the TRS till now.
This resulted in the Congress deciding to boycott the elections, in order to highlight the TRS abuse of political muscle to kill the opposition. It protested against KCR’s political greed and practice of predatory politics by petitioning Governor Narasimhan.
While it is debatable whether it is politically prudent to kill the opposition completely, what it has done is to give the TRS an air of political invincibility ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. It is this confidence that is making them aim at a haul of 16/16 in Telangana, leaving the Hyderabad seat to its ally, Asaduddin Owaisi.