Telangana: Fireworks expected as Eatala Rajender challenges KCR on his home turf

The BJP MLA is not only seeking re-election from Huzurabad in Karimnagar district but is also challenging KCR in Gajwel constituency in the latter’s home district Siddipet.

Rajender, once a close confidante of KCR, wants to take revenge for being dropped from the Cabinet on mere allegations.

Rajender, who held the key portfolio of finance in the first TRS (now BRS) government and of health in the second term, was sacked by KCR in 2021 following allegations that the land of some farmers was encroached by Jamuna Hatcheries owned by his wife in Hakimpet in the Gajwel Assembly segment, which KCR represents.

However, the real reason for KCR’s action was believed to be Rajender’s plans to challenge KCR’s leadership. The TRS chief had taken serious note of his remark that the leaders were not slaves to the pink flag but were its owners.

After being dropped from the Cabinet, Rajender quit the TRS and also resigned as a MLA to join the BJP.

In the byelection held in November 2021, Rajender retained the seat with a huge margin despite facing the might of the ruling party. Though he contested on a BJP ticket, it was no secret that the saffron party was riding on his popularity in Huzurabad as it hardly had any presence in the constituency before.

Winning an Assembly election for the seventh consecutive term, the leader from a backward class was able to convince the voters that he was unfairly targeted by KCR by accusing him of land encroachment.

He had described the bypoll as a fight between the people’s self-respect and KCR’s arrogance and autocratic rule.

The 58-year-old proved that his stature in Huzurabad is stronger than the party affiliation. Ever since he won Huzurabad for the first time in 2009, Rajender successfully built a strong support base in the constituency, which led to his impressive win in the by-election. By defeating his nearest rival G. Srinivas Yadav of the TRS by over 23,000 votes, Rajender demonstrated that his support base remained intact.

What made Rajender’s victory significant is that Huzurabad in the politically important Karimnagar district has been the stronghold of the TRS since 2004, the first election contested by the party after it was floated by KCR. In 2004, V. Lakshmikantha Rao was elected from Huzurabad on a TRS ticket and retained the seat in the by-election in 2008. Rajender, who was first elected from Kamalapur constituency in 2004 and retained it in the by-election, was shifted to Huzurabad in 2009 and since then he had been winning the seat for the TRS.

In 2009, he defeated his nearest rival V. Krishna Mohan Rao of the Congress by 15,035 votes. In the 2010 by-polls, Rajender increased his victory margin to nearly 80,000 and this time his nearest rival was M. Damodar Reddy of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP). In the 2014 elections held just before the formation of Telangana state, Rajender retained Huzurabad with a majority of 57,037 votes. K. Sudershan Reddy of the Congress was the runner-up.

Rajender continued his winning streak from Huzurabad in 2018, defeating his nearest rival Kaushik Reddy of the Congress by 47,803 votes. Rajender had then polled 1,04,840 votes while Kaushik Reddy had secured 61,121 votes. The defection of Kaushik Reddy along with former TDP state chief L. Ramana and BJP leader Peddi Reddy to the TRS a few months before the bypoll could not stop Rajender from retaining the seat. The BJP hardly had any presence in Huzurabad in the elections held in the past. In 2018, its candidate P. Raghu polled only 1,683 votes, which was less than the NOTA votes (2867).

Rajender’s victory had given a big boost to the BJP’s claim of being the only viable alternative to the TRS. He also emerged as a key leader in the saffron party as he was not only made a member of the party’s national executive but was also tasked with the responsibility of holding talks with dissident leaders of the TRS and the Congress and invite them to join the BJP.

However, the failure of the BJP to keep the momentum going and the setback following the defeat in neighbouring Karnataka made some key leaders desert the saffron camp.

Rajender, who was also appointed as chairman of the Election Management Committee by the BJP, is also being seen as the CM face by many as the party has promised that if voted to power it will make a leader from the backward classes the chief minister.

Kaushik Reddy, currently a member of the Telangana Legislative Council, has been fielded by the BRS.

KCR’s party is making all-out efforts to humble Rajender in Huzurabad to check his growing influence.

Kaushik Reddy, however, has triggered a few controversies including the one with his derogatory comments against Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan. A few months ago, he made alleged remarks against Mudiraj, the community to which Rajender belongs.He tendered his apology to the community but claimed that the audio in which he was heard purportedly abusing the community was ‘fake’.

The Congress party, which suffered a humiliation in the bypoll by securing only 3,014 (1.46%) votes, has fielded Vodithala Pranav, a young leader who is the grandson of former BRS MP and MLA Lakhsmikantha Rao.

His joining the Congress from the BRS is likely to have some bearing on the outcome.

Indo-Asian News Service or IANS is a private Indian news agency. It was founded in 1986 by Indian American publisher Gopal Raju as the \"India Abroad News Service\" and later renamed. The service reports news, views and analysis from the subcontinent about the country, across a wide range of subjects.

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