Neither here, nor there: Eatala Rajender in a predicament over Lok Sabha elections

Eatala, having lost the Telangana Assembly elections from two seats, is now looking to the Lok Sabha polls to remain relevant in the BJP.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Feb 22, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedFeb 22, 2024 | 9:00 AM

File photo of Eatala Rajender

BJP leader and former Telangana minister Eatala Rajender appears to be at a crossroads in his political career.

Eatala, having lost last year’s Telangana Assembly election from the Huzurnagar and Gajwel seats, is now looking to the Lok Sabha election to remain relevant in the BJP.

He is still stuck in the quicksand of politics, struggling to rise. But even in his quest to run for the Lower House of Parliament, he is up against the wall.

Also Read: Eyes on beating BRS in Telangana, BJP readies Vijay Sankalp Yatra

Complicated calculations

He cannot ask for a ticket to the Karimnagar Lok Sabha seat since the party leadership would not sideline its general secretary and sitting MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar.

The next best option for Eatala is Malkajgiri. He says he is comfortable contesting from Malakjgiri since it is a home away from home for him.

He settled down in Shamirpet, which is part of Malkajgiri, decades ago though his native village is Kamalapur in Karimnagar district. His native assembly segment is Huzurabad, from where he chartered his political career.

But would the BJP consider him for this constituency? It looks doubtful since party’s former general secretary and senior leader P Muralidhar Rao is understood to have set his eyes on it.

Considering Rao’s loyalty to the party and his long association, the party may not turn down his request, in which case Eatala would have to look elsewhere.

“I am ready to contest from Malkajgiri if the party allots me the ticket,” Rao said at the Vijay Sankalp Yatra in Yadadri on Wednesday, 21 February. His stress on Malkajgiri implied that he was not ready to move to other constituencies.

Related: BJP tweaks apparatus in Telangana to be battle-ready for Lok Sabha polls

Other options

A few days ago, Eatala said that the Medak and Zaheeraabad Lok Sabha seats were being suggested, but he was not very keen on contesting from either constituency.

Eatala’s confidants said that this is a plot to make him lose the election. They said he should contest from Medak as it had Gajwel as one of the Assembly segments — where he lost the Assembly elections against BRs chief K Chandrashekar Rao.

This time, if he won from Medak, it would be in a sense exacting a revenge against his former boss, they said.

Eatala was a minister in KCR’s Cabinet before he was sidelined within the party for voicing dissent against the BRS patriarch. As a result, he quit the party last year.

Meanwhile, the BRS is strong in the Medak Lok Sabha constituency and is apparently waiting for Eatala to take the bait and shoot himself in his foot.

But Eatala knows his prospects. He had said that he does not have much traction in the Medak Lok Sabha constituency, despite being a powerful Backward Class (BC) leader.

In the recent Assembly elections, the BRS won six of the seven Assembly seats in the constituency. The lone Medak Assembly seat went to the Congress’ Mynampalli Rohit, son of former MLA Hanumantha Rao.

Related: Telangana BJP looks to wrest Hyderabad Lok Sabha seat from Asaduddin Owaisi

Possible alliance hurdles

In the wake of the reports that the BJP was not in a position to allot either Karimnagar or Malkajgiri to Eatala, speculations have been rife that he might bid goodbye to the saffron party for the Congress.

This is because the Congress is looking for a strong candidate for Karimnagar, where it wants to vanquish Bandi Sanjay Kumar.

If Eatala is pitted against Bandi Sanjay Kumar on a Congress ticket, the contest could be quite interesting since the leaders do not see eye to eye in the saffron party now. The contest would add a personal dimension to the election.

In case the BRS strikes an alliance with the BJP, which does not seem likely at this stage despite speculation to the contrary, Eatala would not get Karimnagar even then as the BJP would insist on both seats for itself.

However, both Bandi Sanjay and Union minister G Kishan Reddy — the former and current Telangana BJP chief, respectively — have ruled out any tie up between the BJP and the BRS.

Even the Congress has a long list of aspirants for Malkajgiri, among whom is former MLA Mynampalli Hanumanth Rao.

Film Actor Allu Arjun’s father-in-law Kancharla Chandrasekhar Reddy, who recently left the BRS for the Congress, might become a wild-card entry into the race for the Malkajgiri ticket.

Also Read: A dark horse is raring to take on Bandi Sanjay in Karimnagar

Eatala’s history

Meanwhile, Eatala recently dismisses as baseless the speculation that he might switch parties. He told reporters a couple of days ago: “I do not belong to the ilk of leaders who switch parties. I joined the BJP after I was thrown out of the BRS.”

Eatala made waves by winning the Huzurabad seat on BJP ticket, trouncing Gellu Srinivas Yadav, fielded by the then formidable BRS in a by-election in 2021.

He took the BRS on in the by-election after the pink party threw him out, having branded him “corrupt”. Party supremo KCR suspected that he was planning “a big operation” behind his back.

When Rajender won the by-election from Huzurabad, it was a sweet revenge for him for the contumely he suffered in the BRS.

For the BJP, his victory added alpha to the party that was just beginning to emerge as a force to reckon with in Telangana.

After that, the party began making smart gains. It was the beginning of the fortunes of the BRS going down and conversely those of the BJP — powered by the relentless campaigning by Eatala and Bandi Sanjay Kumar — going up.

But the BJP suddenly began losing steam after Union minister G Kishan Reddy replaced Bandi Sanjay as the Telangana BJP president in July last year, ahead of the Assembly elections.