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HometelanganaKCR’s friend-turned-foe awaits sweet revenge

KCR’s friend-turned-foe awaits sweet revenge

Hyderabad: A Backward Class (BC) leader in Telangana had once got emotional and teary during an interview with a Telugu news channel, saying he had given his blood and sweat during his prime age, even neglecting his family, to the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS, that is now christened BRS) and its leader, K Chandrashekar Rao, but all he faced was “humiliation” in the end.

This was the person who had joined the TRS around 2002-2003 and braved it out with KCR, especially between 2004 and 2009. Many MLAs had jumped the fence to join the then-ruling Congress led by Y S Rajasekhar Reddy.

But in 2021, he was thrown out of the party. This leader, who has now become KCR’s bete noire and is baying for his electoral defeat in the Assembly elections, is Etela Rajender.

Special access to KCR

A once-close aide of KCR, Rajender always had special access to the BRS patriarch, who had very few friends in his close circle. He also used to act as a bridge between the BC leaders in the party and KCR. He wielded so much influence in the party that everyone used to see him as number two, even pushing aside KCR’s son, KT Rama Rao,nephew T Harish Rao and daughter K Kavitha.

Rajender was made the finance minister in the first TRS government, and health and family welfare minister in its second term, from 2018 to 2021.

By then, the rift between Rajender and KCR had begun to widen and it culminated in his unceremonious exit. His assertion once in a party workers meeting that, “We all are owners of the party. We gave blood and sweat for it,” had been seen as the proverbial last straw.

Subsequently, Rajender was sacked from the state cabinet in May 2021 on charges of land grabbing. He resigned as MLA and joined the BJP the very next month.

‘Servants of KCR’

Once out of the party, Rajender began referring to ‘Pragathi Bhavan’, the official residence of the Telanganachief minister, as ‘Slaves Bhavan’. According to him, within these walls, regardless of one’s position as a minister, MP or MLA, all are perceived as mere servants of KCR and his family.

Left to Right

Hailing from a numerically strong community of Backward Classes (BC) in Telangana, called the Mudiraj, Rajender has traversed the entire ideological spectrum, transitioning from the Left through the Centre (with TRS) and ultimately to the Right, when he joined the BJP.

Rajender’s foundation of Left ideology during his student days was so strong that he was even suspected of having had links with the outlawed Naxals. But now, he is riding on the saffron party’s back-to-back victories in the Lok Sabha elections as well as its growing influence in Telangana and the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

The hot seats

Rajender is now standing against KCR in Gajwel.Of course, he is also going to fight from his traditional sitting seat Huzurabad.

KCR, too, has picked another seat, Kamareddy, to contest. Rajender, who had won from Huzurabad multiple times since 2009, is confident of retaining it once again. But he has now set his sights on winning Gajwel, with an intention to embarrass KCR.

In 2021, Rajendar defeated the TRS candidate in the high stakes bypoll to Huzurabad, despite TRS having spent hundreds of crores of rupees and deployed dozens of ministers and MLAs to defeat Rajender.

Soft-spoken leader

Rajender, a soft-spoken leader, commands respect and admiration among people, specially his Mudiraj community, and is said to be a taskmaster.

According to some estimates, 130 different groups of Backward Classes constitute around 52% of the total population of Telangana. Of these, Golla Kurumas, Mudirajs, Gouds, and Pamdashalis, having approximately 30 lakh, 29 lakh, 20 lakh and 14 lakh people respectively, are the major groups among the Backward Classes.

Among the Mudirajs, who wield influence in a considerable number of Assembly segments, Rajender has a good following. In fact, the ruling BRS has still not been able to replace Rajender’s void.

With the current OBC push from the BJP, which has announced that a BC leader will be made the chief minister of Telangana if the party is voted to power, Rajender’s prospects seem to be bright.

For now, his battlefield is Gajwel, where he aims to embarrass KCR.

(Published 29 October 2023, 00:22 IST)

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