Unless the merger is reversed, the Congress is set to lose its Opposition Party status in the state assembly.
In a big jolt to the Congress in Telangana, as many as 12 of its 18 MLAs were recognised as members of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti by the assembly speaker on Thursday hours after they moved him seeking merger of their group.
Capping a day of fast paced political developments, speaker P Srinivas Reddy acceded to the request of the 12 MLAs considering the fact they constituted two-thirds of the Congress Legislature Party, a requirement for merger under the anti-defection law.
A bulletin from the assembly on Thursday night said seats had been alloted to the 12 MLAs along with the members of the Telangana Rastra Samithi Legislature Party in the House.
Unless the merger is reversed, the Congress is set to lose its Opposition Party status in the assembly as its strength has come down to six.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen led by Hyderabad Lok Sabha member Asaduddin Owaisi has seven members in the assembly, while the Bharatiya Janata Party one.
The Telugu Desam Party had won two seats in the December polls, that saw the TRS scoring an impressive win, but one of them had also announced his decision to join the ruling party.
The speaker's decision came after the embattled Congress cried foul, accusing the TRS of purchasing its MLAs and announcing its decision to move the court on Friday.
The setback to the Congress in Telangana comes at a time when the party has been on the backfoot in several states following dissidence among its ranks after the Lok Sabha elections drubbing.
The day unfolded with the MLAs meeting Srinivas Reddy and giving him a representation for merger of their group after Rohith Reddy, representing Tandur constituency, became the 12th Congress legislator to jump the ship.
In what appears to be a calculated move, the decision of Rohit Reddy to desert the party came a day after the Congress strength in the assembly came down to 18 following the resignation of state party chief Uttam Kumar Reddy as MLA on his election to the Lok Sabha.
Rohith Reddy's decision boosted the strength of the defectors to the two-third figure, thus insulating them from any possible action under the anti-defection law or the 10th Schedule of the Constitution.
Since early March, as many as 11 Congress MLAs had switched loyalties.
"...the Speaker has taken note that the said 12 members of the Congress Legislature Party who constitute two thirds of its total members in the Telangana Legislative Assembly are deemed to have been merged with the Telangana Rashtra Samithi Legislature Party in Telangana Legislative Assembly in terms of paragraph 4 of the 10th schedule to the Constitution of India. Accordingly seats are allotted to them along with members of Telangana Rastra Samithi Legislature Party in the house, the assembly bulletin said.
Earlier in the day, the Congress strongly protested against the development and targeted the TRS.
"This is completely illegal. KCR (TRS President and Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao) is cheating the mandate of the people of Telangana," Uttam Kumar Reddy said.
He also held a protest on the assembly premises along with Congress Legislature Party leader M Bhatti Vikramarka and senior party leaders.
Rohith Reddy, earlier in the day, met Rao's son KT Rama Rao and pledged his loyalty to the ruling outfit.
Takling to reporters after petitioning the speaker, senior legislator Gandra Venkata Ramana Reddy said the 12 MLAs decided to work with the chief minister for the "development of the state."
"We held a special meeting of Congress Legislature Party. All the 12 members support the leadership of chief minister KCR and requested to work with him. We gave a representation to the Speaker and urged him to merge us with the TRS party," Ramana Reddy said.
He claimed the people of the state were with them and supported their move.
The TRS won 88 seats in the assembly polls held in December last year.
Anticipating the move by the TRS, CLP leader M Bhatti Vikramarka, who is the Leader of Opposition, had recently met the assembly speaker and urged him to issue a notice to the Congress before taking any action on the merger issue.
"People voted for them... for 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," Uttam Kumar Reddy said during the protest.
He alleged Speaker Srinivas Reddy was not available despite repeated attempts to reach him.
"We will fight this out democratically. We have already filed a petition in the high court (on the defections issue)," he further said.
Assembly marshals took Uttam Kumar Reddy, Vikramarka and several other leaders into preventive custody and handed them over to the police for protesting within the assembly premises.
Separately, police rounded up about 20 Congress workers outside the assembly, a senior police official said.
In the last assembly, the TRS managed to lure 12 out of 15 TDP MLAs who won in the 2014 polls.
In the recently held Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won three seats, improving its tally from two in the 2014 polls.
The TRS bagged lower-than-expected nine Lok Sabha seats, while the BJP picked up four.
The TRS, however, swept the rural local body polls in Telangana, results of which were declared this week, winning a majority of the mandal and zilla parishad seats. The polls were held last month.