Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao seems to be generously assisting the Bharatiya Janata Party in its mission to wipe out the Congress from India.

Since the formation of Telangana in 2014, the Congress’ strength in the 119-member state Assembly has fallen from 21 to 12. Over the last two years, there has been a steady trickle of Parliamentarians and legislators from the Congress' Gandhi Bhavan to Telangana Bhavan, the office of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi.

On Monday, more defectors announced their loyalty to KCR, as the state chief minister is widely known: Nalgonda Member of Parliament G Sukhender Reddy, former Pedapalli MP and industrialist G Vivek, Member of Legislative Assembly N Bhaskar Rao and former legislator and minister G Vinod.

The lone legislator of the Communist Party of India in the state, Ravindra Kumar, also joined the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, which now has more than 90 seats on the house.

The reasons for shifting loyalties have all been heard before. Vivek and Reddy cited a commitment to building a “Golden Telangana with KCR”, a reference to the chief minister's plan to transform the state through welfare and development schemes.

Open secret

The crossovers don't really come as a surprise to the Congress. Insiders concede that just about everyone in the party is deemed a “covert” – doing the bidding of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi on the sly.

KCR, party insiders say, opens an admission window every time a by-election nears, or pressure builds on his government. The latest exodus to the TRS seems to be prompted by Opposition criticism over the manner in which land is being acquired for the Mallana Sagar irrigation project in Medak district. The government has sanctioned the construction of a reservoir in the drought-prone district, but villagers reportedly have said that the compensation being offered to them is inadequate.

At a time when thousands of villagers have been protesting, the defections are aimed to signal that the Telagana Rashtra Samithi is still the party to go to.

Destination TRS

KCR's first target after the elections was Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party. From 15 MLAs, it is now down to three. On June 1, the Telugu Desam Party’s lone MP from Telangana, Malla Redy, joined KCR’s party.

The YSR Congress has lost three of its legislators as well as an MP to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi. Barring the BJP (which has five legislators) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (with seven legislators), KCR has managed to successfully poach from all key parties in the state.

Political analysts say pressure is systematically built on MLAs from opposition parties to defect. “The entire administrative machinery – from sub inspector to mandal revenue officer – is controlled by ruling party MLAs,” said K Nageshwar, a political analyst. “In constituencies represented by an opposition party MLA, the defeated candidate of the TRS becomes the de facto power centre. This suffocates the opposition MLA, who is powerless despite winning the election and cannot get any work done.”

In an interview last year, Rajender Reddy, the Telugu Desam Party MLA from Mahbubnagar district, admitted that there was incredible pressure on him to shift sides. “There are subtle and not-so-subtle threats and inducements to move to the TRS,” he said. Reddy finally joined the TRS in February.

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, however, denies any coercion. “Do not look at it as defection,” said Municipal Administration Minister and KCR's son, KT Rama Rao. “This is political realignment taking place with people who want to work for development of a young Telangana, choosing to be with the party that is best placed to deliver the goods.”

Speaker ignores violations

On the face of it, these shifts in the assembly should have invited action under the anti-defection law, which requires rebel MLAs to be disqualified unless two-thirds of a party’s legislators quit to join another political formation. If only a handful of legislators switch sides, they have to resign from the assembly and by-elections have to be held in their constituencies. However, the Speaker has turned a blind eye to the defections.

For instance, T Srinivas Yadav of the Telugu Desam Party, who in December 2014 was among the first MLAs to join the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, was made a minister in KCR's cabinet, even while he was recognised as a Telugu Desam Party MLA in the assembly records. With a clear majority of the Telugu Desam Party’s legislators now joining the Telengana Rashtra Samithi, the entire block of MLAs has been recognised as a unit – making them immune from disqualification – even though they did not join the TRS at the same time in a bloc.

“The delay in acting on the defections by the Telangana Assembly Speaker is questionable,'' Sashidhar Reddy, Congress leader, told

Congress’ woes

The situation presents a real challenge for the Congress. When the newly formed state went to polls in 2014, the party was unable to capitalise on its decision to bifurcate Andhra Pradesh and create Telangana. Since then, the Congress has been considerably weakened by a series of defections by members in other states. In Chhattisgarh, Chief Minister Ajit Jogi broke away last week to float a new party. In Tripura earlier this month, six legislators joined the Trinamool Congress. The defection of senior leader Himanta Biswa Sarma to the BJP in Assam earlier this year probably cost the party in the state elections.

The high command is reportedly miffed with the inability of its Telangana leadership to stem the desertions and there are indications that heads could roll in the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee.