It’s election time and defections are a given. But in Andhra Pradesh, the sheer scale of party-hopping is astonishing.

Rocked by desertions, major parties such as the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are scurrying to keep the flock together. Bifurcation of the State has hit the Congress hard in Seemandhra with half its 90 MLAs joining other parties.

Worried over bleak prospects after the division, Congress leaders are happy sharing the dais with their erstwhile rivals in other parties. From former Union Ministers to MLAs, leaders are making a beeline for the TDP, the YSR Congress, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Over a dozen leaders who were Ministers in the Kiran Kumar Reddy Cabinet have joined either the TDP or the YSR Congress.

Big switch

Former Union Minister Daggubati Purandeswari switched over to the BJP, while Kavuri Sambasiva Rao has hinted at quitting the Congress. At least five expelled Congress MPs are now with the Jai Samaikyandra Party formed by Kiran Kumar Reddy.

With the YSR Congress putting up the “no-vacancy” board, many leaders are headed for the TDP. The former Ministers Ganta Srinivasa Rao, T.G. Venkatesh, Erasu Pratap Reddy and Galla Aruna, along with over a dozen former MLAs, are now in the TDP. Another ex-Minister, Shatrucharla Vijayarama Raju, is all set to make the move.

But the situation in Telangana is different for the TDP as its chief N. Chandrababu Naidu’s “two-eyed policy” on the division has left the party in a tight spot in the region.

Half a dozen MLAs from the TDP in Telangana joined the TRS in protest against the party’s lack of direction on the Telangana issue. The TRS too faced defection blues as its suspended actor-turned-MP M. Vijayashanti and an MLA switched over to the Congress.

The YSR Congress was an automatic choice for several Congress leaders, but the reluctance of its president, Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, to admit them has put paid to their hopes. He decided to halt new admissions selectively because of various compulsions and inability to give ticket to all the new entrants.

Nevertheless, the party netted a big catch in the form of former Ministers Dharmana Prasada Rao and Mopidevi Venkataramana Rao. The latest addition is Congress MP from Anantapur Ananta Venkatarami Reddy. A number of Congress MLAs are due to join the party in two or three days during Mr. Reddy’s campaign in Seemandhra.

Former Ministers Pithani Satyanarayana and S. Sailajanath have joined the Jai Samaikyandhra Party. Former Minister Vatti Vasant Kumar, former MP Lagadapati Rajagopal and former MLA Daggubati Venkateswara Rao have announced their retirement. It remains to be seen if actor Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena party, which was launched on Friday, will attract leaders from other parties.

Mr. Chandrababu Naidu justified admission of Congress leaders to his party saying he would not mind giving ticket to those with credibility. But a section of party seniors voiced their concern. Pradesh Congress Committee president N. Raghuveera Reddy admitted that defections were a cause of worry.