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Kapus are upset with Chandrababu Naidu and they may have a point

A Saye Sekhar | Updated on: 4 August 2017, 18:30 IST
(Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Don’t Kapus like Chandrababu Naidu? They did like him earlier. But they may not in the future.

However, they may start liking him again if he pulls the proverbial rabbit – of Kapu reservations – out of the hat before the end of the tenure of the current Assembly.

However, the Kapus' liking towards Naidu, the majority caste in the truncated Andhra Pradesh, can neither be treated as an eternal truth – like the sun rises in the east – nor can it be brushed aside as a blatant lie.

A large chunk of the voting population among the Kapus rallied behind the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) many a time, in spite of the fact that the community is traditionally a Congress vote bank.

Caste plays a major role in politics. An estimate puts the percentage of Kapu population in the state at 27. However, this largely agrarian community has begun feeling the need to outgrow others politically to assume the reins of the state. They were always made to play a second fiddle to the Kammas (who are estimated to be 4.8%) and Reddys (who are 6.5%), the two communities that have been traditionally ruling the state.

Kapus began realising the importance of asserting their position politically after the advent of the TDP in 1983. However, unlike the Kapus, a large population of whom are economically backward, Kammas are less in population percentage, but had quickly gained a foothold on many things in terms of prosperity, entrepreneurship, education, accessing and acquiring knowledge, and finally, political power.

The Reddys have been enjoying political and financial power, though the economic class divide isn’t uncommon to them.

The start of displeasure

Kapus, as a community, seethed with anger and were rattled when the Congress legislator from Vijayawada and a YS Rajasekhara Reddy-loyalist Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao was killed before the crack of dawn on 26 December 1988. Telugu Desam’s founder president N T Rama Rao was the chief minister then.

The Kapus took to the streets ferociously protesting the killing of Mohana Ranga. Vandalism, arson, looting and an overall lawlessness gripped the state in general and coastal Andhra districts in particular. The protestors and hooligans, in the garb of agitators, unleashed a reign of terror targeting the properties and establishments of the Kammas. This pushed the NTR Government into a defensive, forcing the then Home Minister Kodela Siva Prasad Rao (the present Speaker of the AP Assembly) to resign.

Why pick on one particular person?

Why should the Kapus like a particular leader or hate him?

Currently, the Kapus are an infuriated community. They feel the TDP government under the stewardship of N Chandrababu Naidu has reneged on its promise of including Kapus among the Backward Classes (BCs).

This actually has been a petulant issue between the Kapus and successive governments for more than two and a half decades. Though Kapus were among the BCs, they were deleted from the lists eventually. And this was before the 1960s.

Launching of a political party by megastar Chiranjeevi in the name of 'Praja Rajyam Party' before the 2009 Assembly elections was initially seen as a step in the direction of capturing of political power.

Chiranjeevi's roar ended up being a whimper with an absolute debacle at the political box office. But, the TDP had still found an excuse. The party found it convenient to blame it on YSR Reddy saying that the TDP lost the battle against the YSR-led Congress for a second consecutive term, thanks to the presence of Chiranjeevi's party in the electoral fray.

As is its wont, the TDP continued this rhetoric until the time it gained currency among the people who hardly had any time to micro-verify the facts. Most discounted the fact that the Kapus always, traditionally, voted for the Congress and it was that vote Chiranjeevi split resulting in the Congress scraping through the elections with a slender majority.

The new warpath

Prominent Kapu leader, the former minister and former MP Mudragada Padmanabham, who has been espousing the cause of Kapus and their reservation since 1993, is again on a warpath.

He has charted out an action plan to mount pressure on the government. He has been agitating and demanding the inclusion of the Kapus in the BCs and has intensified his efforts over the last three years. He sat on a hunger strike twice in 2016 – once in February and then in June – demanding Kapu reservations.

A police station and Ratnachal Express Train were completely gutted in the arson at Tuni Railway Station in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh by agitators in February last year and the state government has filed numerous cases naming Mudrgada Padmanabham as an accused in them.

Mudragada has renewed his demand now and has sought to undertake an indefinite padayatra demanding the inclusion of Kapus among BCs. His house is currently being monitored with hundreds of closed-circuit cameras and drones.

With 3,000 thousand policemen deployed in 30 police pickets, his tiny village of Kirlampudi has turned it into a fortress. Every vehicle passing through the village is being checked eight times and the passengers in private vehicles are being video-shot by videographers hired by the police department.

Padmanabham is attempting to undertake a padayatra every day and the police are intercepting him at his house itself by saying that he does not have permission for the march.

Mudragada has been repeatedly asking if he has to surrender himself to Chandrababu Naidu to get that permission. He has also been seeking to know with what, and whose, permission had Naidu undertaken a padayatra in 2013.

Counter ploys

Interestingly, every time Padmanabham revives the agitation, Naidu deploys Chiranjeevi's actor-brother Pawan Kalyan. Pawan Kalyan's contribution in Naidu’s victory in 2014 elections was immense. And now Naidu uses Pawan in his bid to circumvent Mudragada's damage potential.

In fact, the YSR Congress fielded Kapu candidates in 30 Assembly constituencies and six Lok Sabha seats in 2014, as opposed to 29 and four by the TDP. While only five Kapus were elected as MLAs (two crossed over to the TDP) and none to the Lok Sabha on behalf of the YSR Congress, rest have gone in favour of the TDP, thanks to the support and endorsement of Pawan Kalyan.

The modus operandi is – Pawan Kalyan comes up with one issue or the other and Naidu swings into action to “resolve the problem” raised by the actor. And this is done only to send across a message that a Kapu icon, Pawan Kalyan, is not demanding what Mudragada is asking for.

However, Pawan Kalyan, on his part, utters a few words in support of Padmanbaham with a definite intent to not antagonise people belonging to his community.

The latest kidney problems episode of Uddanam's inhabitants was enacted by Pawan Kalyan under Chandrababu Naidu's direction. The Uddanam problem is more serious than what was made out and the YS Rajasekhara Reddy government had drafted professors from Harvard University to study the issue in 2008 itself. But the TDP-sponsored media crooned as if it was Pawan Kalyan’s discovery.

Matter of classes

Against this background, Padmanabham wrote to Pawan Kalyan, who met Naidu recently and had lunch with him, saying that the contention of the chief minister that the GO No.30 issued by the Kotla Vijayabhaskar Reddy government on 25 August 1994, was struck down by the high court was wrong.

The high court upheld the judgment in its verdict given on 7 April 1995. Padmanabham expressed his displeasure over the delay tactic pursued by the Naidu Government for defaulting on the promise of including Kapus in the BC list.

Meanwhile, Justice HS Manjunatha’s one-man commission on BCs, which has been hitherto portrayed as the Kapu Commission or the one constituted for the inclusion of Kapus among BCs, has asserted that it is not a 'Kapu commission' and that it is looking into reservations for backward classes as a whole.

Senior YSR Congress leader, former Union Minister and MLC Ummareddy Venkayteswarlu told Catch that Chandrababu Naidu was singularly responsible for the situation the Kapus have been pushed into.

Kapu reservations were the TDP’s electoral promise on which he is just dodging and ducking without any effective steps being taken in that direction.

Dr Venkateswarlu has also condemned the “ill-treatment” meted out to Mudragada Padmanabham who has emerged as the leader of Kapus in the state. Though resolutions were adopted twice in the AP Assembly, nothing moved ahead on the reservations.

“Hatred has crept into the minds of people against Chandrababu Naidu who promised to include the BCs within six months. The TDP’s election manifesto also clearly mentioned the inclusion of Kapus in the BC list. Now he is making his party’s MLA in Telangana and BC Welfare Association president R Krishnaiah oppose the inclusion of Kapus in BCs, saying that the BC reservations would shrink with the inclusion of a larger community. There is no credibility to the claims of TDP leaders, including ministers Chinna Rajappa, Narayana, and many other Kapu MLAs and leaders,” he pointed out.

Despite his efforts, if the promise is not kept, Chandrababu Naidu will have to pay a heavy price politically. Given the astute politician that he is, he may not take chances, but he should also be Constitutionally correct.

 

First published: 4 August 2017, 18:30 IST
 
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