Etela Rajender is among those likely to be dropped from KCR’s Cabinet.

 

Hyderabad: Telangana Medical and Health Minister Etela Rajender has emerged as a rallying point in the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) for all those who were with the party since inception in 2001 after he made the comment “We are the owners of the pink flag (TRS flag) and my minister post is not anybody’s pittance to me” early this week. Soon, he may become a rebel centre in the TRS.

Rajender has been with party president and Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) right from the beginning when the latter launched TRS in April 2001 and is a five-time legislator from Karimnagar district. Rajender, an OBC leader in the party, held the finance portfolio in the previous Cabinet from 2014 to 2018. He was also a minister in the Congress-TRS coalition Cabinet in 2004 and party floor leader later.

Rajender’s comments at a meeting in his native Huzurabad Assembly constituency on Monday came in the wake of reports that he is likely to be dropped from the Cabinet reshuffle which Chief Minister KCR planned before the commencement of the Assembly session on 9 September. Rajender is among the list of three ministers to be dropped.

Presently, the KCR Cabinet has 12 ministers and he can induct six others as per the strength of the legislature of the state. However, the CM wanted to take three now and another three later after conduct of municipal elections by the year end. KCR wanted to take at least two women into his Cabinet as he faces criticism that there were no females in his government since 2014.

A section of media considered to be close to the ruling party circles has started mentioning the names of the ministers who are likely to be dropped from the Cabinet and Rajender is prominent among them. The others are G. Jagadeswar Reddy (education) and A. Indrakaran Reddy (endowments). They were to be replaced by G. Sukhender Reddy, an MLC, and Sabita Reddy and Satyavathi Rathore, also MLC (ST).

However, a frontal attack by Rajender against “those who were plotting his ouster from the Cabinet” on Monday put a halt to the reshuffle plans. Addressing a party workers’ meeting, Rajender said that he was in TRS “right from the inception, not a lateral entrant like several others”. Rajender also rubbished the claims of his detractors that he had been given the minister post only because he belonged to an OBC caste. “I am not here (in the post) because of anyone’s munificence, the minister’s post is not a pittance to me. I am a rightful owner of my “Gulabi jenda” (pink flag),” thundered the health minister, who is normally docile and soft-spoken.

The minister openly warned some unspecified persons who “want to damage his image” by levelling charges of corruption and said that he had made enough money before entering politics and that he owned a rich poultry business for several years. “I will quit politics if anyone can prove that I had taken at least Rs 5,000 as bribe from anyone,” Rajender said.

He also threatened to expose those who were spreading rumours about him being dropped from the Cabinet. Rajender’s remarks stunned the TRS leadership.

However, another senior Dalit MLA Rasamayi Balakrishna who too belonged to the erstwhile Karimnagar district indirectly defended Rajender and said,“We both talk facts and are open minded. I am sorry to say that things had not changed in government schools of Telangana, only things that changed are boards from Andhra Pradesh to Telangana,” Balakrishna said at a function on Thursday.

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