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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Caste engineering in Telangana – Mrit News

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Political parties are busy in their efforts to mobilise various communities in their favour

Political parties are busy in their efforts to mobilise various communities in their favour

Since the formation of Telangana, elections have been fought on the ‘Telangana versus Andhra Pradesh’ narrative. In 2014, as the hangover of the agitation was still strong, people voted against the leaders of Andhra Pradesh and in favour of the K. Chandrashekar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS). The Telangana sentiment was expected to wane in the 2018 Assembly elections, but equations changed when N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) joined hands with its arch rival, the Congress. It once again became a ‘Telangana versus Andhra’ contest.

But in 2023, the election may be fought along caste issues and several moves indicate that. Mr. Rao has been creating political space for the dominant castes among the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The BJP too has been carefully wooing the OBCs. The party is openly seeking the support of the Munnuru Kapu community, which is economically and culturally powerful, and the Mudirajus, given the understanding that other dominant OBCs such as the Gouds and Yadavs are tilting towards the TRS. The nomination of former BJP State chief K. Laxman, who hails from the Munnuru Kapu community, to the Rajya Sabha from Uttar Pradesh is a clear indication of this. Two firebrand MPs — Bandi Sanjay and Arvind Dharmapuri — are also from the community. Munnuru Kapus have historically been associated with the Congress. Members of the community occupied key posts in the party before the formation of Telangana. Leaders like V. Hanumantha Rao, D. Srinivas, K. Keshava Rao, and Ponnala Lakshmaiah worked as the Congress chiefs in combined A.P.

A political analyst and Professor at the English and Foreign Languages University says the BJP believes that the influential and affluent Reddy community will sail with the party. Telangana Congress chief A. Revanth Reddy has also been making efforts to seek the support of the Reddy community. He sparked a controversy when he said that the Reddy community was better than the Velamas (the community to which Mr. Rao belongs) in providing leadership and steering a State to development. The Reddy community, which was once identified with the Congress, is now split between the TRS and the BJP. Despite being aware of the backlash within the party for his comment, Mr. Reddy played the card purely to mobilise the caste group against the TRS. The Congress continues to expect support from the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and OBCs.

But within the SCs too there is caste assertion. IPS officer-turned-politician R.S. Praveen Kumar said he quit bureaucracy only to empower the Dalits through the BSP. His speeches are reminiscent of the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti movement launched by Krishna Madiga to demand categorisation of SC reservations for the benefit of the numerically strong Madiga sub-sect.

Meanwhile, the rising political aspirations among the Most Backward Classes (MBCs) cannot be ignored. The MBCs, who have a sizeable population in the State, are now looking at inclusive parties to meet their political aspirations. “The MBCs, who are traditionally Congress voters, should not feel ignored. Their role will be key,” says Congress leader Dasoju Sravan.

Muslims too constitute a major section of the population in Telangana. They have supported the TRS in the last two elections but whether they will change their tactics with the perceived rise of the BJP remains to be seen. The Christian community has favoured the Congress so far. Assembly elections may be more than a year away, but political parties are busy in their efforts to mobilise various communities in their favour.

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