Faced with the challenge of winning the 2019 elections, the chief ministers of the two Telugu States – K Chandrasekhar Rao and N Chandrababu Naidu - are trying to nurse the constituency of backward classes with utmost care, whose support, they know, is a sine qua non for reaping dividends in the electoral battle.
KCR, Chandrababu Naidu
In Telangana, the exercise to win BCs over is not difficult to perceive, since Chandrasekhar Rao wears his love for BCs on his sleeve. With three seats assured for TRS, KCR recently promised one of Rajya Sabha seats that will soon fall vacant to a BC.
KCR wants to worm his way into the BCs' hearts for winning the election as Telangana slogan has run its full course and is a non-issue now. The euphoria that prevailed in the youngest State had put KCR on a gravy train. That hysteria is lacking now.
KCR would now have to face the election sans his image as father of Telangana. This is the reason why he is trying to assess the prospects of the party in all the constituencies. He urged Irrigation Minister T Harish Rao to look into the grey areas for the party in every Assembly segment and initiate remedial measures pronto.
While doing this, KCR has not overlooked the fact that BCs were once the backbone of TDP. As things stand and for all practical purposes, the TDP is dead in Telangana State. The task before KCR now is to see to it that the BCs do not go to either to the Congress or the BJP.
While taking every care to ensure that TDP remains dead as a dodo in Telangana, he is trying to make the BCs who are now party-less, see in him a messiah they are looking for.
The BCs have already realised the futility of staying with the TDP though they had not forgotten late NTR who had given them political lift that they were badly in need of in early 80s and are looking for an alternative.
This apart, KCR is trying to ensure that identification of MBCs is done at the earliest so that the backward among the backward would not remain at the receiving end. The Chief Minister, after constituting BS Ramulu Commission, asked it to identify Most Backward Classes and study the various issues that pertain to the BCs in general to help the government put in place a mechanism to benefit them.
In AP it has become dicey for Naidu to assert that he stood for BCs since they had become a little skeptical about the possible extent Naidu would go in extending five per cent reservations to kapus.
With kapu patriarch Mudragada Padmanabham becoming a gadfly for Naidu, the latter had to do something visible that would made kapus, who constitute 25 per cent of population, believe that he would get them the BC tag they were pitching for.
Ever since he constituted Justice KL Manjunath Commission, BCs became wary of his intentions, despite he and his minions reiterating that the existing quota of reservations for BCs, which is 25 per cent, would remain unaffected.
As kapus could clinch poll verdicts and are known to switch loyalties during every election, Naidu is apprehensive that they could support YSRC. Last time around, they rallied behind Naidu, thanks Pawan Kalyan campaigning for him.
With BC reservation becoming a double-edged sword for Naidu, he dealt the issue very cautiously, and pushed through the bill recognising kapus as BCs and providing them five percent reservations in the Assembly.
Since this would push the total reservation percentage beyond 50, he subsequently sent the bill to Parliament for inclusion in the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution so that the Supreme Court direction that reservation should not cross 50 percent would not apply.
With the entire process of passing the bill and sending it Parliament having been done in haste, unheard of in any government – it was done in less than 24 hours - and with Justice Manjunath himself saying that he had not submitted any report and that the reports received by the government from the commission members were not official documents, the kapus appear to be a little suspicious about the intention of the Telugu Desam Party.
If Naidu is sincere, BCs will not be happy and if Naidu is insincere, kapus will not be happy. A Catch-22 angst since the support of both is required for Naidu to retain power come 2019!
By R Prithvi Raj