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Caste politics in Telangana, the 29th state మార్చి 17, 2014

Posted by M Bharath Bhushan in BCs, Congress, Culture, Hyderabad, Identity, Kamma, Mulki, Reddy, SC, Settler, ST, suicide, TDP, Telangana, TRS, Velama.
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Social re-engineering blues haunt Telangana!
Syed Amin Jafri, Times of India, 17 March 2014

Soon after delivering Telangana state, the Congress high command has taken up ‘social re-engineering’ in the ensuing Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the newly-formed state. A similar experiment is on cards in the residuary state of Andhra Pradesh. Though Telangana will come into being formally on June 2, the Congress has completed the formality of bifurcating the Pradesh Congress Committee by naming PCC presidents for Telangana and residuary AP. Both the appointees, who are former ministers with long legislative careers, hail from the backward classes. If Sonia Gandhi was the moving spirit behind the formation of Telangana state, the architect of social re-engineering experiment in the PCCs is Rahul Gandhi.

So far as Telangana is concerned, the Congress leadership seems to have opted for bringing social equity in politics so that the new state can emerge as a model of ‘social justice in politics.’ Several reasons are cited for this experiment. Unlike Telangana agitation during 1968-71, the present decade-long movement was sustained by the under-privileged sections like BCs, dalits and girijans, though leaders from the forward castes lent it support. Most of those youth who committed suicide for the cause of T hailed from weaker sections- BCs, dalits and girijans as well as Naxalite outfits like CPI-ML etc. The various JACs drew strength from under-privileged sections.

Telangana cause was supported by virtually all the players across the political spectrum. Besides TRS and Congress, the TDP, BJP and CPI supported the statehood demand. BC and dalit leaders of Congress, TDP and BJP were in the forefront of T movement. Congress and TDP MPs from Telangana– who took on their powerful forward caste counterparts from Seemandhra-hailed from BC and dalit communities. Aspirants for CM’s post in Telangana Congress include more from BC and dalit communities than the forward castes. TRS also has at least two aspirants from dalit community for the top post only if their party boss makes a ‘sacrifice’ a la Sonia Gandhi (who refused to become PM in 2004).

The current leadership in Congress may be blissfully unaware of the troubles that the party had to face while making social engineering experiments in the past. In 1972 and 1994, the Congress had attempted social re-engineering in the distribution of tickets for Assembly polls. On both occasions, the inspiration for this came from P V Narasimha Rao; first time, as CM of AP, and the second time as the PM and AICC president.

In the 1972 assembly elections, PV had convinced Indira Gandhi to cut the dominant forward castes to size by giving more tickets to BCs and minorities. In those days, the opposition parties were almost non-existent in Andhra Pradesh and the state was the typical example of single-party rule. Even then, as many as 54 independents, mostly Congress rebels, won against the Congress party’s official nominees. These rebels included senior leaders from the BC and forward caste communities who were denied tickets to make way for ‘young blood.’

The Congress won 219 out of 287 seats in the Assembly and most of the rebels later rejoined the party. The number of Reddy and Kamma MLAs came down marginally to 97 in 1972, from 117 in 1962 and 106 in 1967.

In the 1994 Assembly polls, PV, who was at the helm of the party at the Centre, handpicked Mohammed Kamaluddin Ahmed as APCC president and repeated his experiment of handing out more tickets to BCs and minorities. The result, this time, was disastrous because the state had slipped into two-party system by then. After a five-year hiatus, N T Rama Rao stormed back to power with a bang, with the TDP bagging 216 seats in the 294-member House. TDP’s allies– CPI and CPM- and party rebels cornered 46 seats. The Congress tally was reduced to an all-time low of 26 members and the party could not qualify for official status of an opposition party. Still, 131 members from Reddy and Kamma communities made it to the Assembly on the tickets of different parties.

As the nascent Telangana state faces its first Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the task is cut out for the Congress not only to encash on fulfillment of its promise of delivering Telangana but also on realizing its goal of “Samajika Telangana.” The Forward Castes are not likely to acquiesce in their purported marginalization in favour of the Backward Classes. But can the Congress withstand the backlash from the upper caste groups who have dominated the region’s politics for decades?

(The writer is an MLC and a journalist)

Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/Social-re-engineering-blues-haunt-Telangana/articleshow/32166489.cms

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