Author Topic: Andhra Pradesh: Caste to the fore again in 2014 Elections  (Read 10934 times)

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Offline srikanth

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Andhra Pradesh: Caste to the fore again in 2014 Elections
« on: April 20, 2013, 06:45:19 AM »
Caste plays a big role in the selection of candidates by different parties for the Lok Sabha and the assembly.
The state politics is only an aggregate of the politics at the regional, sub-regional and district level. The state can be divided into three distinct political regions -- Telangana (part of the erstwhile Hyderabad state), coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema.

Further, Telangana has two sub-regions -- north and south. Coastal Andhra also has two sub-regions -- the north coastal region and south coastal region. Rayalaseema has its own distinctive brand of politics dominated by factionalism in three out of the four districts in the region.
Out of the 23 districts in the state, the Reddys are a politically dominant upper caste in 15 districts where their share of the total district population is above 10 percent. Kadapa accounts for the highest proportion of Reddys at 27 percent of the total population. The Reddy-dominated districts include Kurnool, Anantapur and Chittoor in Rayalaseema region, Nalgonda, Medak, Warangal, Mahbubnagar, Rangareddy, Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Adilabad in Telangana and Nellore, Guntur and Prakasam in coastal Andhra.

Kamma-dominated districts are Krishna and Khamman, though Kammas share power with Reddys in Prakasam, Guntur and Chittoor. Kapus dominate the politics of two districts -- East and West Godavari. Other Backward Castes dominate the politics of three north coastal districts -- Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam [ Images ]. Kapus share power with Kammas in Krishna and Guntur districts. Hyderabad is dominated by Muslims, as they account for 42 percent of the total electorate.

Right since the formation of Andhra Pradesh, the Reddys have dominated state politics, with the Kammas also getting 'empowered' with the formation of the Telugu Desam Party by Telugu matinee idol N T Rama Rao in 1982. Prior to the birth of the TDP, the Communist parties were dominated by Kammas, especially in the coastal districts and Khammam. Reddys dominated Left politics in Nalgonda and other Telangana districts. Whenever the Left parties had a substantial presence in the assembly, most of their members hailed from the Kamma community. Since 1983, the number of Kamma MLAs has increased substantially.
In the assembly elections during 1983-2004, the number of Reddy members ranged from 73 to 91. Similarly, the number of Kamma MLAs has ranged from 35 to 54. In the 2004 election, the Congress and its then allies -- the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Communist Party of India [ Images ] and Communist Party of India-Marxist -- swept the assembly and Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Among the 294 members elected to the assembly, 180 belonged to the forward castes.

They included 91 Reddys, 34 Kammas, 27 Kapus, 11 Velamas, 7 Kshatriyas, 4 Vysyas and one each from Lingayat, Are Kshatriya and Marwari community. The weaker sections -- including Backward Classes, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities -- accounted for 114 members in the house, including 48 BCs, 39 SCs, 16 STS and 11 minorities (Muslims).
With the key players fighting in the name of caste, it is no wonder that parties which are able to forge links with dominant caste groups are able to sweep the polls. In the 2004 election, 69 percent of the Reddys had preferred the Congress and 52 percent of the Kammas had pitched for the Telugu Desam. The Congress-led alliance was able to secure more votes of Kapus, OBCs, SCs, STs and minorities compared to the rival alliance consisting of the TDP and the BJP.

No political party can ignore the caste factor. No wonder, out of the 14 chief ministers in Andhra Pradesh in the last 52 years, as many as eight were Reddys, followed by Kammas (3), Brahmin, Velama and Dalit (one each).

Going by current indications from the ground, the political caste equations in the state emerging from the 2009 poll are not likely to be drastically different from what they were in the past. Both the Reddys and Kammas are likely to hold on to their vicious grip over state politics with Kapus making unsuccessful attempts to end this stranglehold.
The backward classes have to wait till the 2014 election to pose a real challenge to the forward caste-based political parties and grab power from them. Who will emerge as the messiah of the OBCs five years from now is difficult to predict.