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‘Minister in KCR cabinet worse than slave’: Sacked Telangana minister quits TRS, to join BJP

Eatala Rajender, a close aide of KCR who had been with TRS since its beginning, leaves the party around a month after being ousted from the cabinet. He calls the CM an autocrat.

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Hyderabad: Telangana MLA Eatala Rajender Friday resigned from the state legislative assembly and ended his two-decade association with Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao and his party Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), after he was ousted from the state cabinet last month.

Lashing out at the CM’s rule in the state, Rajender said the minister post is worse than being a “slave”.

He alleged an autocratic rule in Telangana, where ministers are not being allowed to do their job. He also hinted at charges of the CM promoting family rule.

The comments followed Rajender’s meeting with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president J.P. Nadda in Delhi earlier this week. He is set to join the BJP.

Rajender was a close aide of KCR and had been associated with the TRS since it was founded. He had been at the forefront of the Telangana agitation — a fight that helped KCR to become the CM of India’s youngest state.

The former health and finance minister was dismissed from the cabinet in early May, following allegations of land grab. An overnight probe following complaints from farmers of Medak district led to immediate inquiry reports, supported by the district collector. The minister was ousted immediately.

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What Rajender says on CM rule

At a crowded press meet Friday, Rajender sought to call out the chief minister’s allegedly autocratic rule.

“In your rule, ministers cannot exercise their rights, they cannot work at their capacity, and officers cannot work with freedom. This is happening. Ministers are not allowed to enter his camp office cum residence without an appointment, it happened to me a few times,” he said.

“Once when there was an issue in the district, I, as a minister, and a few MLAs went to meet him… we were denied entry. I even requested the security to just allow me to take a U-turn inside the building to pretend to have met him to avoid humiliation — they did not,” said Rajender.

‘Pragati Bhavan’, which is the CM’s camp office-cum-residence, should be named ‘Bhanisa (slave) Bhavan’, he said.

“State finance meetings happen without the finance minister’s presence, health meetings happen without the health minister…such is the situation,” the former minister added.

Hinting at family rule

In the background, however, there are talks of how the relationship between KCR and Rajender soured over the last few years. Speaking on this, Rajender said the “gap” between the two came five years ago, primarily due to the CM’s autocratic behaviour.

“Not just me, minister Harish Rao (who is the CM’s nephew and a close aide) was humiliated several times. He may only be working today on your orders under compulsion,” said Rajender.

There was also talk of how Rajender opposed the bid of K.T. Rama Rao, KCR’s son and Telangana’s IT minister, to be elevated as the next CM.

“I earlier supported this move because I was the member of the party and KTR is his son. But today I want to ask KCR — is your party like that of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s or Jayalalithaa’s? The party was formed after hundreds of fighters, like me, supported you and fought for Telangana with you. And what happened today? Andar ke log bahar, bahar ke log andar (The outsiders are in and the insiders are out),” he said.

“This minister post is not at someone’s mercy, not everyone who gets a b-form can win. I won on my own capacity. His daughter (K. Kavitha, now an MLC) also got a b-form, but she lost,” he said.

The former minister also said he opposed extending the Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which cash assistance was given to big landlords who already own hundreds of acres, alleged Rajender. The state’s flagship scheme was the chief minister’s idea.

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The caste factor

Rajender also said the CM has not allowed a voice of dissent and workers’ unions to survive in the state.

Playing the caste card, the former minister questioned why there wasn’t a single member from the backward classes, Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribe communities in the CM’s office.

“Telangana was always looked at as state of weaker sections and we fought to get them empowered. But, have they been considered? Did the CM live up to it?”

Rajender represents a backward class — an identity that he has sought to highlight ever since the split.

Move to BJP

Rajender is now set to move to the BJP, which could be a big boost for the party amid its efforts to penetrate into the backward classes in the state.

On Wednesday, BJP state president Bandi Sanjay declared that the former health minister would be joining the party in a week. However, Rajender didn’t comment on this at the press meet. Sources from his camp confirmed to ThePrint that he will join the BJP.

Political expert Suresh Alapati said Rajender’s exit from the ruling TRS and joining the BJP (as and when it happens) is nothing but a “disappointment” to the people of Telangana.

“Including Eatala, many who fought for Telangana at that time were with a pro-Left mindset. The idea of the agitation was also bringing social justice… Joining the BJP is like an anti-climax,” he told ThePrint.

Rajender’s exit from the ruling party will neither be a blow to KCR at this point, considering his power and influence, nor will it benefit the BJP to a great extent, Alapati said.

“It’s not like Eatala can help BJP get to power. The maximum benefit they could gain out of this is probably in Eatala’s own constituency. It’s not like him joining BJP will end KCR’s rule,” he added.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

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