With Bandaru Dattatreya’s exit, Telangana has no presence in Cabinet

M SOMASEKHAR Hyderabad | Updated on January 10, 2018

Bandaru Dattatreya

The much-hyped Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi saw the dropping of Bandaru Dattatreya, Union Minister for Labour (independent charge). With that, the country’s youngest State — Telangana — now finds itself without a representation in the Union Cabinet.

Two things are responsible for this. First the State is ruled by the Telangana Rastra Samithi (TRS), which is not a constituent of the BJP-led NDA government. Second, for the BJP itself, Dattatreya was the lone winner from Telangana in the 2014 general elections.

Significantly, Dattatreya, the soft spoken, 70-year-old has been the most consistent winner of Parliamentary elections from Telangana for the BJP. He is the fourth time MP from the Secunderabad constituency and held the portfolios of Railways and Housing & Urban Development in the Cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee during 1998-2004.

However, Dattatreya has been basically a people’s person and not a forceful or high flying Parliamentarian or Union Minister. In his constituency, he is easily accessible and hands on with the public issues. So, the reason political analysts ascribe to his being dropped could go beyond Modi’s conveyed perception that performance would be rewarded in the Cabinet working or ‘perform or perish’ as some others are touting.

He was also named in the chargesheet related to the suicide of Rohit Vemula, the student of the University of Hyderabad in 2016.

In a reaction that took people by surprise, IT and Municipal administration minister KT Rama Rao tweeted that “Taking out the lone representative in the union government was not a good sign though hardly anything worth mentioning was done for the State” in response to a follower’s query.

While the dropping of Dattatreya is an immediate blow to the State Unit and BJP that wants to make big inroads into Telangana in 2019, the Modi-Amit Shah combine appears to keep the option open of `some sort of working arrangement with the TRS, which has been showing positive vibes in the recent past. The Chief Minister and party chief, K Chandrasekhara Rao’s pro-active moves in the election of NDA’s presidential candidate, Ramnath Kovind and the public reception to Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu are indicative of such a possibility in the near future.

Uphill task for BJP

The TRS has consolidated its political strength since coming to power in 2014 with 63 out of the 119-member State Legislative Assembly. It has marginalised the Telugu Desam Party, weakened the Congress(I). The BJP with just 5 MLAs has an uphill task of growing, but can pose a threat, in case the Congress(I) gains strength. Therefore, the politically shrewd KCR has been making the right moves to manage these two forces by his stand on major issues like Demonetisation, GST, election to President and Vice-President. Given these gestures, political analysts feel it could lead to situation where an outside support with participation in the cabinet could work out. Anyway, Modi has kept the recently-joined Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) and the possibility of AIADMK and other smaller parties joining the government for a later date.

The dilemma for the BJP was that it did not have even a single Rajya Sabha member also from Telangana. The names of one of the Party General Secretaries, P Muralidhar Rao, from Karimnagar did the rounds, with him being possibly accommodated in place of Venkaiah Naidu from Rajasthan, but were shortlived. The present & past State unit president’s — K Laxman and G Kishen Reddy — could emerge front runner’s to fight the Secunderabad LS seat in 2019.

Published on September 04, 2017

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