The expressions of discontent since the cabinet expansion last Sunday refuse to die down. The latest Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) leader to come out in the open in Mohammed Shakeel, MLA from Bodhan. He met BJP MP from Nizamabad, D Aravind and the meeting sparked off buzz that he may be looking to switch sides.
According to Telugu news channel reports, Shakeel told local reporters in Nizamabad that despite being the only Muslim MLA in the TRS, he was not given any prominent position. That honour has gone to Mahmood Ali, an MLC who has been made Home minister after serving as Deputy Chief minister in the TRS first term. Shakeel reportedly gave vent to frustration that only the MIM was given importance. The reference is possibly to the move to upgrade the MIM to the status of the principal opposition party in the Telangana assembly.
Shakeel who is a two-time MLA has been a close associate of chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K Kavitha, who was MP from Nizamabad. But ever since Kavitha lost to Shakeel, he has not been active in TRS party activities. The lawmaker told Nizamabad media that he will disclose his future plans on Monday.
But within hours of the meeting and the local media going aflutter, the TRS leadership got into damage control mode. Shakeel put out a denial on camera, rejecting reports that he was looking to part ways. Claiming that he had gone to invite Arvind for an official programme in Bodhan, he expressed full faith in KCR’s leadership.
But the fact that Shakeel met Aravind, knowing fully well that the visuals will go public, gives rise to suspicion. Especially when Aravind and his father D Srinivas (who is a TRS Rajya Sabha MP) are persona non grata for the TRS first family. Last year, Kavitha had demanded disciplinary action against Srinivas and her defeat to Aravind rankles.
Two things are obvious here. The loud dissent expressed by some TRS leaders in the last few days, starting with Health minister Eatala Rajender are not a major tectonic shift given the brute majority the party enjoys in the Assembly. But even the mild tremors on the political Richter scale can be ignored by the High command at its own peril.
It cannot be denied that the plum posts given to leaders who joined the TRS after 2014, has caused dissatisfaction among the original TRS cadre. In the BJP which is looking to net leaders from the TRS, TDP and Congress, these disgruntled leaders have found a Plan B. And they are using that to see if they can negotiate terms afresh with the party leadership.
A senior Telangana BJP leader when asked about Shakeel joining the BJP said “this one looks like a possibility”. For the BJP, to get a Muslim MLA into its ranks in a state where Asaduddin Owaisi champions the minority cause, will be a major coup.
But the big hurdle will be that Shakeel will have to resign as legislator. Will he want to do so less than a year since getting elected, is the question.