HYDERABAD: An uneasy calm prevails between Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and health minister Etala Rajendar ever since the TRS government assumed office for the second term in December 2018.
Notably, while KCR took oath as CM for the second term shortly after the TRS won the assembly polls with a landslide majority, he took only Mohd
Mahmood Ali into his cabinet. KCR carried on the show in this form for two months until February 12, 2019.
A two-man show for such a duration was a record of sorts in the Indian governance system.
KCR expanded his cabinet on February 12, 2019 by inducting ten ministers. Speculations were rife in TRS circles then that Eatala's name was missing in the list of 10 names finalised by the CM on February 11, 2019 — a day prior to the cabinet expansion.
Lending credence to this, Etala rushed to Pragathi Bhavan and remained there for several hours till late in the night for an audience with KCR. It was rumoured that KCR included Eatala's name only after much deliberation.
TRS circles say the mental gap between KCR and Etala came about on that day and that it only widened as days passed.
Eatala has been indirectly expressing his disquiet through symbolic acts of dissidence and defiance by way of periodic public outbursts. These were prominently being carried in the media, causing embarrassment to the TRS leadership and providing ammunition to the Opposition to attack KCR and the ruling TRS party.
In August 2019, Eatala caused a furore when he said he did not seek the minister post under BC quota and went on to say that a minister post is not anyone's 'biksha' (alms) to him. He stressed that he was among the 'owners' of the TRS party, as compared to some others who had defected from other parties to the TRS and started habitation in it as 'tenants'.
Eatala said he and those like him who had participated in the Separate Telangana movement and helped achieve statehood have every right to be called the “owners of the TRS party”.
This 'owners versus tenants' controversy raged in public and party forums, more prominently in the TRS, and found their echo in the media for several months.
Eatala is reportedly sore at KCR also for the encouragement that the CM gave to Gangula Kamalakar from his native Karimnagar district, as in his induction into the state cabinet. KCR assigned the party's poll duties to various ministers including Gangula recently while Etala was kept away from the mainframe.
In February 2021, the outspoken Eatala openly commented on the Centre's controversial farm laws, saying he would stand by the farmers and that, to him, the farmers' interests came first. This, after KCR gave a statement that states had no option but to implement the Centre's farm laws.
In the midst of the recent assembly budget session on March 22, TRS working president KT Rama Rao drove Eatala from the assembly to Pragathi Bhavan in his convoy. This triggered speculation as to what KTR discussed with Eatala for about two hours. Word spread that KTR specifically asked the health minister to refrain from making controversial public comments, in his own interest as well in the interests of the party.