Eatela Rajender roared. But only to roll back the roar in a few hours.
For the better part of this week, speculation has been rife over whether Telangana Health minister Eatala Rajender is on his way out. This after a newspaper reported that Rajender had leaked information about proposed changes to the Revenue Act that were discussed during a confidential meeting of the chief minister and district collectors. Rajender denied the allegation and suspected the smear campaign was a move to oust him from the cabinet. Rajender tweeted, asking people not to believe reports written about him.
But on Friday, in his Huzurabad constituency, Rajender went ballistic. Responding to vernacular media reports that he was likely to be dropped as minister, Rajender said his cabinet berth was not “bhiksha” (alms) given to him and certainly not on the basis of his caste. Calling himself a self-made leader, he said it was on the basis of his hard work that he achieved his present political stature. The Health minister pointed to how both his parents are not into politics.
“Power is not permanent. Justice and virtue are permanent. People are the owners of the TRS flag. I did not migrate from another party, nor did I join the TRS midway. Few people are indulging in cheap publicity and I will not stoop to their level and react to it,” said Rajender.
These are strong words by a TRS leader. He trained his guns at defectors from other parties, who got plum posts despite not being active during the Telangana movement. He also took potshots at the newspaper report, accusing it of lying.
However, in a few hours, Rajender had mellowed down. A press release blamed news channels for misquoting him and said, “I am a gulabi sainik. KCR is my leader and TRS is going to win the municipal elections.”
The BJP was quick to pounce on these faultlines emerging within the ruling TRS. Krishna Saagar Rao, the spokesperson of the party said, “The dissenting voices in the TRS are now loud. Minister Eatala Rajender seems to have revolted against KCR’s hegemony in the party. He has challenged that he is a self-made leader and no one can threaten him of removal from the position of a minister. BJP considers these statements by a senior leader and minister as the beginning of a strong revolt in the TRS.”
Rajender is known to be close to Harish Rao, KCR’s nephew and Irrigation minister in the first Telangana minister between 2014-18. Harish has been sidelined and there is no confirmation if he will make it to the cabinet when it is expanded next month. In fact, a senior leader had confessed to Filter Kaapi that he was surprised to see Rajender making it to the cabinet in February 2019 at the last minute. But his ministry was changed from Finance to Health.
Insiders within the TRS say it is common for people to meet senior TRS leaders, including ministers for help or favours even if the subject does not come under the purview of that particular minister. Rajender was among those ministers, seen as affable and accessible.
If Rajender is given the pink slip, he will be the second Health minister of Telangana to go under a cloud. Soon after the state came into existence, the then Health minister and Deputy chief minister T Rajaiah was shown the door, for reasons never quite explained by the party leadership.