Caste battleground In Andhra Pradesh

A very long battle seeking statehood for Telangana region has finally ended in the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh. However, the State’s

division has set a new battleground for caste politics in both the regions.

Although the entry of K Chiranjeevi into the politics before 2009 elections set new caste dynamics influencing the politics in Andhra

Pradesh, it was TRS President K Chandrasekhar Rao who triggered the caste politics much before the process of bifurcation of Andhra

Pradesh began. While Chiranjeevi sought political empowerment of Kapus by launching Praja Rajyam Party, it was KCR who announced

that a Dalit would be made the first Chief Minister of Telangana while the Deputy Chief Minister’s post will be given a Muslim.

Kapu community is strong in the coastal Andhra region. It has a heavy presence in 16 out of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies. It is very strong

in Vizianagaram, Anakapalle, Araku, Amalapuram, Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Narasapur, Machilipatnam and Eluru. So far, no Kapu leader

has ever become the chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh despite the strong presence of Kapu community in the state.

Kapus have been trying hard to empower themselves politically since 1980s. In the 1983 elections, they supported NT Rama Rao, a

Kamma, with the aim of breaking the Reddy’s domination in AP politics. However, the community could not achieve its goal and finally

in was in 2009, they revived their hopes after Chiranjeevi launched PRP. However, an intense fight between Kapus, Reddys and Kammas

resulted in confining the PRP to little over 20 seats and Chiranjeevi later merged his party into the Congress.

Having lost its ground in Seemandhra region due to the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh, the Congress party is now hoping to revive itself

in the residuary State of Andhra Pradesh through a Kapu-BC combination. It named Dr N Raghuveera Reddy Yadav, a Backward Classes

leader, as its new president for the APCC. Although the party replaced Botsa Satyanarayana, a Kapu, it gave the charge of party’s revival

to Chiranjeevi by fielding him as a star campaigner. The team also comprises of Anam Ramnarayana Reddy to balance the Reddy factor.

The Kammas and Reddys constituted about six and 10 per cent respectively of the population in Andhra Pradesh. They are economically

and politically powerful. A majority of the state’s 14 chief ministers were from these castes. But the division of the State has completely

changed the caste equations.

In united Andhra Pradesh, the higher castes constituted 22% of the total population. But post-bifurcation, their population got reduced

to 10.7% in Telangana, 11.8% and 24.2% in coastal Andhra. The OBCs got stronger in Telangana although they lost a little weight in

Seemandhra. They constituted 44.5% in united AP, but now their population in Telangana is 50.7% although it decreased to 43% in

Rayalaseema and 39% in coastal Andhra. The STs has emerged as a powerful group in Telangana with 10% population in Telangana.

In united AP, their population was 6.6%. But post-division, their population in coastal Andhra will remain at 6% and they are 2.9% in

Rayalaseema.

The division had no major impact on the Scheduled Castes. They were 16.2% in united AP. Now their population is 15.8% in Telangana,

16.7% in Rayalaseema and 16.3% in coastal Andhra.

The Muslims have emerged stronger in Telangana as their population in the region is 12.4%. They are equally stronger in Rayalaseema

with12.5% population although they became weak in coastal Andhra with 4.5% population.

The impact of changes in the caste equations is more visible in Telangana politics. Although it was KCR who proposed a Dalit as the first

Chief Minister of Telangana, he appears to changed his mind after the passing of Telangana Bill in the Parliament. Now he is indirectly

promoting himself for the post. His opponents are trying to target him for this move describing it as a betrayal with Dalits. Since KCR

is a Velama, his candidature for the Chief Minister’s is not likely to be welcomed by other politically dominant castes. Although KCR is

considered a hero of Telangana by many, his elevation to the post of Chief Minister is not likely to be received well by leaders belonging

to other castes.

The Congress played a major trick to capatalise the growing sentiments of caste politics. It named Ponnala Lakshmaiah, a BC leader, as

the president of Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee. It also made Uttar Kumar Reddy the Working President of TPCC. Former Deputy

Chief Minister Damodar Rajanarasimha, a SC leader, was made the Chairman of Campaign Committee while Mohammad Ali Shabbir,

a Muslim, was made Co-Chairman. Through this combination, the Congress gave a strong message that it was framing a new political

composition comprising BCs, SCs, Muslims and Dalits. Union Minister Jairam Ramesh also announced that the Congress would make a

Dalit leader the first Chief Minister of Telangana. By hijacking the promise originally made by KCR, the Congress has forced other parties

to think on caste-lines in order to win the next elections.

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