Hyderabad: The daggers are drawn, and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) is all set to take on former party member (and cabinet minister) Eatala Rajender, who has now joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). With Eatala resigning as Huzurabad MLA, the stage is set for the bypoll, for which chief minister KCR is keeping his cards close to his chest, as always.
Coming from recent Nagarjunasagar by-election which it won, the TRS is in a strong position. However, it is likely to struggle a bit since KCR didn’t bother grooming a second line of leadership in Huzurabad, given that Eatala Rajender has been by side since the TRS’s inception. It wasn’t until recently that cracks developed between him and KCR, after which the former was removed as state health minister and removed from the cabinet.
As for Eatala Rajender himself, he not only has to win his seat back, but must also fight for survival in a way. The Huzurabad seat sits in Karimnagar, whis is considered to be a TRS stronghold in the state. It is equally important for the BJP, as its Telangana chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar is the sitting Lok Sabha MP from the Karimnagar seat. He has begun touring his constituency, and is meeting various groups in preparation of the expected by-election.
Who will be the TRS candidate?
In typical style, there is not much word about the TRS candidate, except for a murmur here and there. A senior TRS leader, who did not want to be quoted, said that the names ex-MP B. Vinod and of Sarojini Devi, wife of TRS Rajya Sabha MP Cap. V Laxmikantha Rao. Devi was the mandal parishad president (MPP) of Huzurabad earlier and also had a tiff with Rajender in 2018 due to a no-confidence motion moved against her.
Sarojini Devi then had accused Eatala Rajender of conspiring with opposition parties. Laxmikanta Rao’s son is TRS MLA V. Satish Kumar, who represents the Husnabad seat. “Now we are hearing that KCR may consider Satish’s wife for the Huzurabad seat. I don’t think Eatala will be able to win on his own as things stand,” a senior TRS leader told Siasat.com.
He added that the decision solely lies with the chief minister. “Last time, we got to know 10 days prior to the Nagarjunasagar bypoll that Nomula Bhagat will be contesting,” the TRS leader said. He added that with Eatala Rajender joining the BJP, the TRS may struggle a bit at most. “Out of all the votes he got in the last election, Eatala would have got about 25% on his own, and the remaining is due to KCR’s popularity. Had he contested on his own and then joined the BJP it would have been different. Now the Congress won’t support him,” he added.
In the 2018 Telangana Assembly election, Eatala Rajender secured 104469 votes as the TRS candidate, while the Congress candidate getting 60604 votes. BJP’s Raghu Puppala got a paltry 1670 votes, which shows how much strength the party has in such rural pockets. In the 2018 state polls, the BJP won just one out of 119 seats.
However, the BJP put performed in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) polls last year by winning 48 out of 150 seats, and also won the Dubbaka by-poll as well. However, it failed to perform when it mattered most in the recently concluded Nagarjunasagar by-election this year. The saffron party’s candidate could muster just over 7,000 votes, belying its own claim of replacing the Congress as the main opposition in Telangana.
Eatala Rajender was removed from the cabinet amid allegations of land encroachment of 66 acres of assigned land by the Jamuna Hatcheries Private Limited, which is owned by his family. He was thrown out from the post of health minister amid the peak of the ongoing second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon, the health portfolio was taken over by chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR).
Eatala had also met several leaders from across party lines, and eventually decided to join the BJP, which is now looking to make inroads into rural pockets through leaders like him who have jumped ship. “B. Vinod getting a ticket is a possibility, as he is someone who has been with KCR right from the start. Now, Eatala will build a narrative that he is the actual Telangana statehood activist, and will also added that the original leaders are being sidelined. Vinod will be right to counter that,” said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.
Reddy pointed out that the main argument in the Huzurabad by-poll will be about who the original pro-Telangana activists. “That is what Eatala has always been saying, especially since he left TRS. Eatala Rajender has been dragging in the names of (state finance minister and KCR’s nephew Harish Rao and others. But he himself is not sure of winning, and that is why joined the BJP,” he added.