Eatala Rajender gets his way as BJP replaces Bandi Sanjay with Kishan Reddy as Telangana unit president

To put an end to internal dissent between ‘loyalists’ and ‘lateral entrants’, Eatala Rajender has been named chairman of the Election Management Committee.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Jul 04, 2023 | 6:09 PMUpdatedJul 04, 2023 | 7:45 PM

BJP Telangana president

Putting an end to the months-long internal tussle that the Telangana state unit of the BJP has been witnessing, the saffron party on Tuesday, 4 July, officially announced changes in its state leadership — very much along expected lines.

Union Minister for Tourism and Culture G Kishan Reddy will replace Bandi Sanjay Kumar as the president of the BJP’s Telangana unit and will have the onerous task of taking on the ruling BRS and a rejuvenated Congress as the state goes in for Assembly elections towards the end of this year.

In another communication, BJP’s national general secretary Arun Singh announced that party president JP Nadda had named former minister and Huzurabad MLA Eatala Rajender — who was leading the charge against Bandi Sanjay’s leadership — as the chairman of the crucial Election Management Committee of the state unit.

Tuesday’s moves come as a clear win for the Eatala Rajender-led group of “lateral entrants” in the BJP who have been pushing for leadership change in the poll-bound state.

It is now only a matter of time before outgoing president Bandi Sanjay is inducted as a minister of state as and when the reconstitution of the Union Cabinet takes place.

Telangana BJP crisis: It is lateral entrants vs those steeped in RSS ideology

Eatala Rajender meets Jithender Reddy

That Eatala Rajender had finally influenced the party leaders became clear on Monday itself when he and his bete noir and former MP A Jithender Reddy huddled up in a farmhouse in Moinabad near Hyderabad, where they decided to let bygones be bygones.

For the first time in the Telangana BJP, the party’s leaders could get what they wanted instead of meekly following orders from the high command.

These leaders — Eatala and his backers — joined the saffron party after the 2018 Assembly elections and are alien to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), whose ideology drives the saffron party.

Though Eatala Rajender wanted to step into Sanjay’s shoes, the BJP leadership is understood to have felt that it was being asked too much as he had joined the party only recently and does not belong to the RSS ecosystem.

The BJP, to ensure that there would be no dislocation in the party’s preparedness for the elections in the wake of dissident activity against Bandi Sanjay, decided on Kishan Reddy, who is a true-blue saffron leader whose loyalty to the party and its ideology is beyond any suspicion.

Following the decision, Eatala said: “Only the BJP can defeat the BRS in the state. As Election Management Committee chairman I will do my best to bring the saffron party to power.”

He said it was the BJP that had made an OBC the prime minister of the state.

“In all the elections that were held in Telangana after 2018, it was either the BRS or the BJP which won. The Congress was nowhere in the scene,” he said.

“I thank the party for the new responsibility entrusted to me. I will not let down the party leadership,” he added.

Also read: MLA Raghunandan Rao’s outburst against Bandi Sanjay creates crisis

Kishan Reddy to remain Cabinet minister

There are indications that Kishan Reddy will continue to remain as the Cabinet minister as it would lend him additional strength in leading the party in the elections.

According to sources, Kishan Reddy was not very gung ho about taking up the responsibility of being president of the party’s Telangana unit as any reverses in the election would reflect on his political career, but he had to follow the party’s fiat.

Also read: Rajender, Rajagopal Reddy steer clear of ‘Intintiki BJP’ programme

Raghunandan Rao in the doghouse

As far as another key leader — Dubbaka MLA Raghunandan Rao — is concerned, the BJP leadership is reportedly upset with him for his unexpected tirade against the party during his interaction with reporters on Monday.

Sources told South First that the central leaders of the party went through what Raghunanda Rao had said in his media interaction and are reportedly miffed with him for saying that people voted for him in the Dubbaka by-election and not for the party.

Rao, who joined the BJP in 2014 after breaking away from the BRS, had also claimed that no one in the BJP had helped him while he was fighting his by-election.

He said there was neither financial support to him from the party, nor had Amit Shah visited his constituency and campaigned for him.

Also read: Congress victory in Karnataka casts shadow on Telangana BJP

Rajagopal Reddy’s fate undecided

It is not yet immediately known what role former MLA Komatireddy Rajagopal Reddy would play. He was riding shotgun with Eatala in leading the dissident team seeking a purge in the party as the two leaders believed that the soft line the party had adopted against the BRS would do more harm to the party than good.

The party is learnt to have decided to wait on what it should do with Rajagopal Reddy in the wake of his frequent hints that he had an invitation from the Congress to join its ranks.

This apart, his older brother and Bhongir Congress MP Komatireddy Venkata Reddy had said in the recent past that, sooner than later, Rajagopal would be back in the grand old party.

Rajagopal Reddy had resigned as Congress MLA from Munugode and precipitated a high-volage byelection where he contested as the BJP candidate.

Though the saffron party performed better than most expected and came in second, the seat, a Congress bastion, was wrested by the ruling BRS.

Also read: Telangana BJP MLA Eatala Rajender gets ‘Y’ category security

Aruna’s position unclear

According to sources, while the party deferred a decision on what it should do with Raghunandan Rao, it is also yet to make up its mind in respect of DK Aruna, who, of late, has been expecting some position in the state BJP.

The developments on Tuesday are the culmination of about fortnight-long heightened dissident activity in the party.

In fact, the raging storm had prevented the party leadership from concentrating on the strategy to be adopted for the Telangana Assembly elections at a time that the Congress and the BRS are already ahead in planning their approach to deal with their rivals in the electoral bullring.

The BJP, which had been riding on the crest of two back-to-back victories in the Dubbak and Huzurabad by-elections and its impressive performance in the GHMC elections, hit a roadblock when it lost narrowly to the BRS in the by-election for Munugode, though it gave the BRS nominee a scare.

After the BJP suffered humiliation in neighbouring Karnataka, the tempo suddenly slowed down in Telangana even as the dissident activity over the party line to be adopted against Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and the BRS became more pronounced.