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KCR was waiting for right time to strike at Eatala

KCR was waiting for right time to strike at Eatala

It was a development that took everybody by surprise but the subsequent happenings left no one in doubt that every move by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was well calculated to nip in the bud any possible rebellion or challenge to his authority.

Minutes after polling came to an end in nine urban local bodies on April 30, there was 'breaking news' on some TV channels that a group of farmers from Medak district complained to the chief minister that their assigned lands were grabbed by Health Minister Eatala Rajender for his poultry business.

Within a couple of hours, a statement was released from the chief minister's office that he has asked the chief secretary and also vigilance DGP to probe the allegations.

This triggered a series of fast-paced developments and all this happened when the state was in the grip of Covid surge with the minister busy holding meetings with officials to review the situation and announce new measures to check the spread. The chief minister himself was recovering from Covid at his farmhouse.

The next day saw teams of revenue and vigilance officials descending on Achampet and Hakimpet villages to conduct the investigation, survey the lands of Jamuna Hatcheries owned by the minister's family, lands of complainants and record their statements.

Medak district collector, who conducted the preliminary investigation, declared that 66 acres of assigned lands were encroached.

KCR, as the chief minister is popularly known, lost no time in stripping Eatala of health ministry. He took over the key portfolio. The next day, KCR dropped Eatala from council of ministers.

Even as the investigations were on against Rajender over allegations of encroaching farmers' land, KCR formed a committee comprising four IAS officers to investigate encroachments and illegal transactions of Sri Sita Rama Swamy temple land at Devarayamjal village in Shamirpet near Hyderabad. Rajender and his followers allegedly encroached 1,521 acres in the village. The lands are estimated to be valued at Rs 1,000 crore as per the market price.

For many leaders in Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) sacking of Eatala was not an unexpected move. A cold war between them was going on for last couple of years and KCR was waiting for the right time to strike.

KCR, who has vice-like grip both over the government and the party, did not act against Rajender due to series of elections. Political analysts say he did not want to give an opportunity to opposition to slam the government over allegations of corrupt. As no elections were due in the state after April 30 polls to nine urban local bodies, KCR acted swiftly.

Eatala, one of the founding members of TRS and backward class leader from Karimnagar district, was seen to be emerging as a challenge to KCR's authority in the party when he took potshots at him on few occasions. "The minister's post is not anybody's pittance. We are the owners of TRS who have carried the party flag," he had said at one party meeting

At another occasion, he remarked that he reached the position not because of his caste but by his sheer hard work. "I am not here because I am somebody's son," Eatala remarked in what was believed to be an attack on KCR's son and minister K. T. Rama Rao.

Though considered a low-profile and soft-spoken leader, Eatala came to be seen as a challenge to KCR's leadership.

There were speculations that Eatala may quit TRS and float a new regional party or join Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been trying to emerge as an alternative to TRS. He, however, had denied any such move.

Political analysts say KCR anticipated problems for the party from Eatala. The TRS chief struck before Eatala could strengthen himself and wean away some dissenting leaders within the party.

Though Eatala has not yet announced his future course of action, his counter attack on KCR left nobody in doubt that he is keen to take on the TRS chief.

It is in this context that former MP Konda Vishweshwar Reddy's meeting with Eatala on Thursday assumed significance.

Reddy, who recently hinted at floating a new regional party with an aim to defeat TRS in the 2023 Assembly elections, said he met Rajender to show solidarity with him.

Reddy, who had quit the Congress in March, recently hinted at bringing together leaders of various smaller parties and even those TRS leaders who are unhappy with KCR to form an alternative.

Reddy, who was with the TRS before switching loyalties to the Congress, has already stated that both the Congress and the BJP can't be an alternative to the TRS.

An entrepreneur and one of the richest politicians in the country, Reddy has started consultations with leaders from various political parties on his plans to float a new political outfit. He had also made efforts to reach out to Eatala.

However, KCR apparently calculated all these risks and finally hit at him. "None would have expected KCR would order for action in to a matter where such a senior leader of the party is involved . And if the step has been taken, it suggests KCR is prepared to tackle the side-effects of this head-on," said political analyst Palwai Raghavendra Reddy.

The TRS chief weathered many a storms ever since he floated TRS in 2001 and every time he succeeded in isolating the dissidents and even showing them the door.

The thinking in TRS leadership is that Eatala will not be able to pose any major challenge even if he joins hands with opposition parties or float a new party with the likes of Vishweshwar Reddy.

Currently representing Huzurabad constituency in Assembly, Eatala is not considered to be a mass leader. TRS leaders believe that the given the seriousness of the allegations against him, Eatala may not be able to mount any challenge to the party.

However, Eatala is also waging a legal battle against KCR. He and his followers have already moved the court, challenging the government's action.

Denying any wrong doing, Eatala said no post was important for him than his self-respect. "You can harass me, file cases and get me arrested but there are courts," he said.

Rajender also got some relief when the Telangana high court directed the state government not to initiate any action based on the report of Medak district collector. It also asked the government to follow the due process of law.

Eatala episode also triggered an attack by the opposition parties on the TRS government.

Congress and BJP leaders alleged that KCR made the BC leader a scapegoat. They wanted to know why KCR took action only against Eatala and ignored other land-grabbing ministers, including his son K.T. Rama Rao and TRS MLAs.

BJP state president Bandi Sanjay Kumar demanded a high-level probe by a sitting judge into the land grabbing and corruption charges against every minister.

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