The BJP in Telangana is all set to lure one of Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao’s (KCR) former close confidantes. Former state health minister Etela Rajender, was recently dropped by KCR from his cabinet during the peak of the second Covid wave following which the former resigned from the TRS.
KCR justified sacking him by claiming that he was facing corruption allegations and was embroiled in many land grab cases. Rajender's supporters in turn have accused KCR of framing their leader.
KCR’s ties with Rajender started turning sour after the latter objected to KCR promoting his family members in the party.
Rajender felt the party and the Telangana government was run by KCR, his son K T Rama Rao and nephew T Harish Rao.
Further, another nephew Santosh Kumar is running the CM’s office while KCR’s daughter K Kavitha Rao was made an MLC even after she failed to retain her Nizamabad MP seat in the previous Lok Sabha polls.
“All other members in the party are treated as slaves and those who are disgruntled are only waiting for an opportunity to strike back,” Rajender said after he resigned from the party.
Meanwhile, the state BJP unit is jubilant over the recent developments as it feels Rajender's exit from the TRS will be the beginning of the fall of the KCR dynasty.
Rajender belongs to the Mudiraj backward caste, which is electorally influential in as many as 50-60 constituencies in the state.
The BJP is also hoping more disgruntled members of the ruling party will shed their pink robes to sport saffron colours before the next Assembly polls in 2023.
Many within the ruling party admit in private that Rajender’s resignation is a loss to the party and that KCR cannot ignore Rajender’s role during the Telangana statehood movement.
At the time as the floor leader in the Assembly, it was Rajender who took on Congress political heavy weights such as chief ministers YS Rajasekhara Reddy, K Rosaiah and Kiran Kumar Reddy. All of them were opposed to state bifurcation, but undeterred Rajender led the TRS from the front in the Assembly as well as outside.
“Rajender will certainly be an asset to the BJP and I am sure will retain his Huzurabad seat even if KCR puts all his might to defeat him," says Aaraa Mastan, a psephologist by profession who was associated with the TRS from 2011 to 2018 as an election strategist.
Mastan also predicts many more unhappy TRS members will jump ship to join the BJP.
Speculations are rife that Rajender will soon fly to Delhi to meet the BJP top brass and join the saffron party.