In a rather shocking turn of events, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao today removed Health Miniter Etala Rajender from his post after serious charges of land grabbing surfaced against the latter.
After Rajender was accused of grabbing lands in Medak district's Masaipet area, the CM had yesterday instructed Chief Secretary Somesh Kumar to get the Medak District Collector to look into the matter, and to submit a comprehensive report with the findings to him soon. Vigilance DGP Purnachandra Rao was also told to investigate the allegations.
The charges have come from a group of landowners from Achampet, in Masaipet, who recently alleged that they had been "coerced" into selling their lands to Rajender's Jamuna Hatcheries. They said that the hatchery underwent some expansions for which it had "bought" their plots which lay adjacent to the existing structure.
The complainants, in a letter to the CM, claimed that about 100 acres of land, given to them under various governmental schemes, were illegally usurped by the minister and his aides.
Following the kerfuffle this led to, KCR immediately issued orders for Rajender to be stripped off his post, taking over the health portfolio himself, and ordered a probe into the charges levelled against the latter.
While investigations into the encroachment charges are still underway, Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan has already released an official communique making explicit her acceptance of the CM's decision to relieve Rajender from duties as health minister. She has also assented to giving the health portfolio to the CM with immediate effect.
One wonders how wise it is to remove the minister amidst the deadly second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that has hit Telangana badly. Further, the move is bound to anger the powerful Mudiraj community to which Rajender belongs.
Many believe that the decision is a politically motivated one, and that the only reason for the removal is not really the land grabbing charges but rather the fact that the minister has been very vocal about his belief that the Centre has not done enough to support the states
of the nation in their fight against the pandemic. KCR's conspicuous silence on the matter of vaccine pricing and other pandemic-related issues, criticised rather harshly
by Congress leader and former minister Shabbir Ali, on the other hand, signals that Rajender's complaints against the Centre may not have gone down well with the TRS supremo.
In fact, some political parties have even accused KCR of having hatched a deliberate conspiracy against the minister to punish him for his anti-Centre comments. Many are likely to believe this since Rajender has not, before this, faced any charges in his political career of 20 years.
Being a founding member of the TRS, Rajender has not yet been expelled from the state Cabinet or the party. However, though only a few hours have passed since his removal from his post, rumours that former minister and Jadcherla MLA C Laxma Reddy will likely be inducted into the Cabinet as the new Health Minister are already doing the rounds.
Some sources say that Reddy has been informed about the decision citing the fact that he was asked to visit the CM's camp office. Interestingly enough, the MLA had previously been given the health portfolio right after the expulsion of then-Health Minister, deputy CM Dr T Rajaiah, who was ousted for his "failure" to deal with the 2015 swine flu outbreak in Telangana.