The induction of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s son KT Rama Rao and nephew T Harish Rao in the state cabinet on Sunday (September 8) was a strong message of family unity besides being a desperate move in order to keep the flock together to foil the designs of the resurgent BJP.
Besides, the re-induction of Rama Rao and Harish signalled that all is well in the first family of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS).
Both Rama Rao and Harish were ministers in the cabinet of Chandrashekar Rao during his first tenue from 2014 to 2018. But, they were left out after the TRS secured a second term in the December 2018 Assembly polls. The developments came amid reports of a rift in the family and widespread perception that Harish, a six-time MLA, was being sidelined in the party.
However, after a gap of nearly nine months, both Rama Rao and Harish are now back into the cabinet and that too with plum portfolios as the chief minister expanded his cabinet on Sunday evening. He also inducted six other ministers into the cabinet, including two women, increasing the cabinet strength to 18, including the Chief Minister.
Apart from Rama Rao and Harish Rao, the other ministers who took oath of office on Sunday were Sabita Indra Reddy, Satyavathi Rathod, Gangula Kamalakar and Puvvada Ajay Kumar.
While Rama Rao has been allotted the same portfolios that he held in the first tenure, Information Technology, Industries and Municipal Administration, Harish has been given the Finance portfolio. Earlier, Harish was the irrigation minister and was instrumental in expediting mega projects like Kaleshwaram lift irrigation scheme on Godavari. The irrigation portfolio has now been retained by the Chief Minister himself.
Wary of BJP’s aggression
The composition of the cabinet and the imminent appointments to the nominated posts reflect growing realisation in the party that it should not give any elbow room to the BJP, which has vowed to capture power in the next Assembly elections in 2023.
Emboldened by the significant inroads it made in the April 11 Lok Sabha elections, bagging four seats, the saffron party has been on the offensive, poaching leaders from other parties and stepping up its campaign against the “family rule” of the TRS.
The TRS leadership has realised that it must first set its own hose in order and bring the curtains down on the rift in the family. It has swiftly brought back Harish into the cabinet to remove an impression that he was being sidelined. By allotting the Finance portfolio to him, the party wants to send across a strong message that his pride of place has been restored.
A sulking Harish, known for his organisational skills and mass connect, could be a potential target for poaching by the BJP.
Soon after the TRS swept the 2018 Assembly polls, 43-year-old Rama Rao, the suave and urban face of the party, was made the working president, a post that did not exist earlier. On the other hand, Harish, 47, a key figure in the party since its inception in 2001, was largely confined to his constituency — Siddipet.
Now, the coming elections to the municipal bodies will be the biggest test for the ruling party, particularly in the face of an aggressive campaigning by the BJP.
One of the major criticisms against the TRS government has been that it had no representation for women in the cabinet. The Chief Minister has this time addressed this concern by inducting two women in his team— Sabita Indra Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod.
Now, the full-fledged cabinet wears a balanced look with representation being given to all major communities and districts.
Sabita, who served as minister for mines and geology in the YS Rajasekhar Reddy cabinet between 2004 and 2009, became the first woman home minister of Andhra Pradesh between 2009 and 2014. After losing the elections in 2014, she returned to the Assembly in the December 2018 elections. A key leader in the neighbouring Ranga Reddy district, Sabitha had defected to the TRS along with her son Karthik Reddy in March this year.
Chandrashekar Rao took over the reins for a second successive term on December 13, 2018, along with home minister Mohammad Mahmud Ali. The Chief Minister expanded his cabinet by inducting 10 ministers in the second phase on February 19 this year, over two months after he formed the government.