Four MLAs and one MLC of the YSR Congress tonight defected to the ruling Telugu Desam, dealing a major blow to the main Opposition party in Andhra Pradesh.
On a day marked by high drama, the MLAs - Bhuma Nagi Reddy (Nandyal), his legislator-daughter Akhila Priya (Allagadda), Adinarayana Reddy (Jammalamadugu) and Jaleel Khan (Vijayawada West) switched over to the TDP in the presence of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who is also TDP President.
Narayana Reddy, YSRC MLC from Kadapa district, the home ground of party chief Jagan Mohan Reddy, also joined the Naidu-led outfit.
The YSRC legislators tonight drove to the riverfront residence of Naidu here, where they were formally welcomed into TDP. Several Ministers were present on the occasion.
Earlier in the day, Bhuma attended a meeting of the Assembly Public Accounts Committee, of which he was the Chairman, and bid "farewell" to its members. He told them he was stepping down from the post.
The TDP chief held a series of talks with his party leaders from Kurnool and Kadapa districts to placate them over the entry of the YSRC legislators.
Kadapa TDP leader Ramasubba Reddy had been strongly opposing the entry of his bitter rival Adinarayana into the party though he said he would go by the party chief's decision.
For a second time in a week Naidu called Ramasubba, a former Minister, to Vijayawada to "convince" him on Adinarayana's entry into the TDP.
Similarly, Kurnool district TDP President Silpa Chakrapani Reddy and his brother Mohan Reddy were opposed to the return of Bhuma to the party.
Deputy Chief Minister K E Krishna Murthy, however, earlier said he would welcome Bhuma and his daughter into the party.
Naidu spoke to the Kurnool district leaders last week
on Bhuma's return to the TDP and asked them to "be accommodative" in the party's interest. He reportedly assured the Silpa brothers that their interests would be protected even after Bhuma's entry.
The Chief Minister once again spoke to Silpa brothers here this evening and assured them that their interests would be taken care of. "We are admitting them into the party," the TDP chief told his colleagues from Kurnool and Kadapa.
Bhuma was once in the TDP and had been its MP. He, along with his wife Sobha, quit the TDP in 2008 and joined the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) launched by actor Chiranjeevi.
When PRP was merged with the Congress, Bhuma and his wife joined the YSRC owing to their relationship with the YS Rajasekhara Reddy family.
Sobha, a contesting candidate from Allagadda, was killed in a road accident days ahead of the 2014 election. Their daughter Akhila Priya was elected to the Assembly from Allagadda in the by-election.