Prof K. Laxminarayana
The official channel of Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) on 30th April aired the news of alleged encroachment upon assigned lands by Eatala Rajender’s family for their poultry business. The news came just after the voting for the municipal elections for Warangal district was completed. The timing indicates the vindictive political conspiracy of Telangana Chief Minister Mr. K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) to get rid of Eatala without this action adversely impacting the electoral gains of TRS.
Eatela Rajender and KCR
Eatela Rajender, who hails from a backward class background, has subsequently relinquished his TRS membership and also resigned from his MLA seat and is now set to formally join BJP on 14th June, 2021. The BJP, which had accused all TRS leaders as corrupt until the other day, is now inviting one of the top leaders of TRS to join the party! Eatala says that the TRS party supreme leader Mr. K.Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) is dictatorial and there is no self respect and internal democracy within the party. The expulsion of of Eatala Rajender from TRS and his joining BJP are events which are sure to have important consequences for Dalit and other democratic movement in the state of Telangana.
Who is Eetala Rajender and why has he been removed now?
Eatala Rajender is a senior leader of TRS party, led by Mr.K.Chandrashekar Rao. Rajender played a very significant role in the Telangana agitation for separate statehood. However, he has increasingly been perceived as a potential threat to the prospects of the CM’s son, K.T.RamaRao, as the next chief Minister of Telangana. It may be noted that KT Rama Rao, was a rather late entrant into Telangana agitation, and has no mass basis. In contrast, Eatala Rajinder’s popularity among the people of his constituency is so high that he was elected to to the state legislative assembly for the sixth time in a row.
Being a relatively senior and strong leader, he has been asserting his views now and then against KCR dictatorial attitude: going to the extent of claiming that, “We are not subordinates but equal owners of the TRS party flag.” The main reason for KCR’s targeting of Rajender seems to be the latter’s opposition to the anointing of Mr. KT Rama Rao, the CM’s son—a lot junior to Rajendar—as the future Chief Minister of Telangana. Having understood this threat well, Mr.Chandrashekar Rao wanted to get rid of him without much loss to electoral gains. This clearly is the reason why he chose to dismiss him from ministership after Huzurnagar and Nagarjuna Sagar assembly by-elections and Warangal municipal elections . The next election is due only after three years which gives KCR ample time to regain any ground lost due to Eatala’s exit. Eatala is not just an individual but represents economic and political interests of his Mudiraj caste and a section of the Reddys. He also has some acceptability among certain Leftist and Bahujan intellectuals because of his modesty and simplicity and Leftist background.
Telangana Agitation for separate statehood and the role of different castes
The agitation for a separate geographical Telangana State was led by upper caste elites such as the rich Reddys, Velamas with active participation of the Backward Castes as also the Scheduled Castes. The Reddy, Velama and Brahmin landlords, who were driven out of villages by a strong Naxalite movement in the late 70s and early 80s, came to district headquarters and capital city, Hyderabad and other cities and towns like Karimnagar and Warangal and settled down. They slowly entered into the real estate business, became contractors in roads and buildings, bridges, established private colleges etc. and thus amassed wealth. They found it difficult to compete with the all-powerful Seemandhra contractors and traders in education and health. They wanted to drive out Seemandhra contractors and take over political power. These political and economic interests have always been there behind the demand for separate geographical Telangana State in a palpable form. The dominant leadership of Telangana movement whipped up Telangana sentiment so much so that many genuine movements such as Samajika Telangana by the oppressed castes and Democratic Telangana by leftist forces could not get a foothold despite their enormous sacrifices.
TRS government and its role in upper caste-class consolidation
Just after coming to power, TRS party declared that now it was no longer a party of movements but a ruling party. Strictly speaking, the caste that benefited most after the formation of Telangana State is KCR’s own Velama caste headed by him. Being numerically a small caste, Velama caste cannot hold power on its own. In order to hold on to its power in a stable manner, it brought the BC castes under its fold. A section of Reddys also joined them. Brahmins, with minor secular elements amidst them, have always been ready to join and serve any ruling caste in power and thus joined the Velamas in power as usual.
The Velama caste, which is too small in number, has the need to make its place stable in governmental power, by depending on numerically larger castes. For that purpose, it started using caste and encouraged casteism to divide the people and weaken the opponents. The TRS Party which represents Velamas and the BCs has become so Hinduized and castefied that even the BJP is envious of it. Of course, the fact remains that any caste which wants to come to power and retain it, cannot do so without mobilizing the BC castes which constitute more than 52 percent of the population in Telangana. The Chief Minister along with other state ministers have been indulging in conducting yagnas, offering gold ornaments to the Hindu deities and spending crores of rupees of the taxpayers’ money. As a result, Hindu religious consolidation and its fundamental element, namely the hierarchical casteist mentality among the upper castes, and the economically prospering BC castes in rural areas, namely, Mudiraj, Munnuru Kapus, Yadavas, Gouds, Boyas, has been growing rapidly. TRS also brought many caste-based welfare programmes such as supplying fish seedlings to the Mudiraj or sheep to the Yadavas and so on. Eatala’s Mudiraj caste, with its traditional caste based profession—fishing which has so far been more of a petty business—is getting more commercialized as a result of the above-mentioned programmes. It is also involved in the leashing of mango gardens from ruling castes like the Reddys and Velamas.
These BC communities have thus steadily become powerful, politically and economically, at the Mandal, District and State levels, and committed atrocities on Dalits in various parts of Telangana villages. Reddys, who are traditional strongholds of the Congress Party, have lost hope of winning elections in the state and are looking for an alternative, right wing party that might give them an opportunity to re-capture power.
BJP which is losing its foothold in North India is craving for power in the Telangana State. It can engineer communal disharmony and riots by mobilizing the Hindu population since the state has a significant Muslim population. Taking advantage of the emerging situation in the state, the BJP has declared a Reddy as the national Vice president, and a Backward Caste leader belonging to Munnuru Kapu community, as the state president. It is using the Reddys and BCs to strengthen brahmanical Hinduism, pitting cultural symbols like Shivaji, Ganesha against Ambedkar and attacking Dalits in Telangana.
The notorious role played by BC castes in the atrocities in Pathapalli, Ramojipeta and Guvvalegi villages is a proof of it. (Fact Finding Team, Round Table(2020), Tushar Dhara, The Caravan (2020).BJP is aiming to polarize the villages into majority BC community and minority Dalit community in order to reap electoral dividends from majority BC community. They also want to mask their Hindutva fascism with the face of Bahujans in the state of Telangana especially when they have been losing ground in North India. Eatala Rajender fits very well in to this game plan of BJP, having connections both with the BCs and Reddys.
Why is he Joining BJP ?
While explaining the reasons for joining BJP, Eatala said that although he comes from a leftist background, the present circumstances have compelled him to join BJP. These circumstances are nothing other than the need to protect his property and shield himself from KCR’s political vendetta, combined with the aspirations of his caste to come to power by building alliances with the brahminical Hindutva forces.
He had a leftist background during his student life but abandoned that leftism much before the Telangana agitation. He entered into the poultry business in 1990s and gradually expanded his business and amassed considerable wealth. Some groups from the Reddy caste, a powerful upper caste, also collaborated with him because of familial connections. Having no commitment to either the Phule-Ambedkarite ideology for the emancipation of Dalit-Bahujans or to leftism, his interest is focused on the protection of his property and retaining of political power. The slogans of self-respect and anti-dictatorial utterances are merely a cover to hide his political and economic interests.
The Eatala Rajender phenomenon explains the continuing shift of Backward Classes and Reddys towards the Brahmanical fascist BJP. This is a very dangerous situation for the genuine followers of Ambedkar-Phule ideology and other democratic forces. Therefore, it is the duty of secular and democratic section of Dalit-Bahujans to educate and organise their communities and community leaders about the great heritage of anti-brahmin and anti-Caste struggles of Phule and Ambedkar which alone can push back the onward march of brahmanical fascist forces in the state. It is also high time for the leftists to understand the caste-based class nature of Brahmanical fascism in order to fight it in a strategic and grounded manner. It is hoped that the people of Telangana, having the great tradition of fighting for equality and justice, will stall the onward march of the Hindutva corporate fascism of the BJP.
Dr K Laxminarayana is a professor in the School of Economics, University of Hyderabad.
Image courtesy: the internet.