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Kapu cauldron simmers

Kapu cauldron simmers
Highlights

Caste, populism, politics are dovetailed to unveil the Kapu conundrum. The conflicting voices pay little or no regard for the constitutional position on the sensitive question. The competing interests of different caste groups play up to make the issue more and more intractable. Politics and politicians unabashedly have a say in competing caste groups.

A closer scrutiny of the role played by various political parties during the recent Kapu agitation yet again brings forth the fissiparous character of our political culture. The ruling Telugu Desam Party is preaching morals to the opposition and extolling them not to fish in troubled waters.

Perhaps, the intention of the party is that it alone should have a patent right over using the caste card to serve vested political interests. It conveniently ignores the fact that Chandrababu Naidu personally extended support to the earlier fast of Mudragada Padmanabham when he was the opposition leader. Apples become oranges as one moves from opposition to the Treasury benches

Caste, populism, politics are dovetailed to unveil the Kapu conundrum. The conflicting voices pay little or no regard for the constitutional position on the sensitive question. The competing interests of different caste groups play up to make the issue more and more intractable. Politics and politicians unabashedly have a say in competing caste groups. As a result, tranquility and social harmony are sacrificed at the altar of political mobilisation. Mind you, no power aspirant is an exception to the rule.

A closer scrutiny of the role played by various political parties during the recent Kapu agitation yet again brings forth the fissiparous character of our political culture. The ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is preaching morals to opposition and extolling them not to fish in troubled waters. Perhaps, the intention of the party is that it alone should have a patent right over using the caste card to serve vested political interests.

It conveniently ignores the fact that Chandrababu Naidu personally extended support to the earlier fast of Mudragada Padmanabham when he was the opposition leader. Apples become oranges as one moves from opposition to the Treasury benches.

A politician becomes a maverick while in the opposition and suddenly gets baptised once he comes to power. Of course, the politician has a right to change colours at his will. But, the problem is that he wants the people to also suffer from selective amnesia and accept chameleon politics as the gospel of truth. Naidu talks about the constitutional process to realise the promise he made to Kapus during elections.

But, he refuses to answer why he did not initiate the process immediately after coming to power. He has no answers. What would the government do in case the study undertaken by Justice Manjunath Commission arrives at a conclusion that Kapus do not deserve reservation? Perhaps, the TDP is banking on the Commission or the court to come to his rescue.

While the TDP leader is still voicing his commitment to accord reservations for Kapus, his own party leader is raising the banner of revolt against any such moves. It is a wonder that the TDP leaders are hitting two birds with one stone. How else can one explain the support being extended to both Kapus and the OBCs who are up in arms on the same issue? Will the TDP choose to lose one of them? It would be nothing short of political suicide given the likely ramifications that will follow.

Perhaps, the only argument advanced is that Kapu reservations would be implemented without causing any harm to OBCs, in which case the judicial position that quota should not exceed 50 per cent will come into picture. Even if the judiciary does not come in the way, what would be the stand of TDP or opposition if a section of forward castes takes to the streets opposing more than 50 per cent reservations? The parties have no roadmap to tide over these constitutional and political hurdles.

Congress and YSR Congress leaders are quick to jump onto the Kapu bandwagon. Congress leaders like Botsa Satyanarayana and V Hanumantha Rao, though Kapus, still enjoy reservations, have joined the Kapu stir. Hanumantha Rao has nothing to lose as Munnuru Kapus who are Telangana-based enjoy BC status. But, if Kapus are given reservations, the Turpu Kapus, whom Botsa claims to represent, would be the losers.

Chiranjeevi now realises the genuineness in the demand of Kapus. Despite Kapus overwhelmingly rallying behind him when he launched Praja Rajyam, the actor-turned-politician did not ask the then Congress leadership to extend reservations for Kapus as a precondition to merge his party with the Congress. Ironically, Chiranjeevi was rewarded with a berth in Union Cabinet while Kapus did not get anything, left in the lurch as they were.

The Congress party, which did not fulfill the long-held aspirations of Kapus while in power both in the State and the Centre, is now aligning with Kapus. YS Jaganmohan Reddy who sees in Kapu agitation a hope to revive lost glory wants Naidu to extend reservations to Kapus even if the total quota goes above the judicially stipulated 50 per cent.

But he refuses to take the question on why his father YS Rajasekhara Reddy who gave reservations for Muslims ignored the Kapus. Jaganmohan Reddy seems to have dragged his feet once the OBCs took to the street protesting against quota for Kapus keeping the Kapu community leaders within his party in the forefront.

The BJP is taking an ambivalent stand. But, BJP Kapu leaders have already joined the Mudragada-led agitation. Still, Naidu targets opposition and remains silent over his ally supporting the Kapu cause. The BJP is yet to take a call on whether or not to abandon Naidu for Kapus, which explains the lukewarm political play.
Mudragada Padmanabham earnestly took up the Kapu cause.

He has all the credentials to do so. He was right when he said that they are agitating only because Chandrababu Naidu promised to implement reservations to kapus. But, he sat on hunger strike refusing to accept the fact that reservations cannot be achieved through political ultimatum as it has to follow a constitutional process.

But, suddenly he withdrew his hunger strike after TDP leaders called on him. There is no change in the government’s stand on Kapu reservations now when compared to the position taken by it at the time Mudragada took to fasting. Still, Mudragada suddenly developed confidence in the Chief Minister. He wants us to forget his political comments on Naidu.

The Kapus have a right to know what transpired between Mudragada and the TDP leaders. No leader, however, can take such an opaque stand and leave his supporters guessing. Mudragada has not achieved anything through his hunger strike except heating up the state polity causing more animosity between Kapus and OBCs. Still, Mudragada deserves credit for bringing Kapu’s demand back on the political agenda in Andhra Pradesh that made political parties run helter-skelter.

Pawan Kalyan’s stand is intriguing. His Jana Sena Party, which pledged to question, is not seen in action. Instead, he wants the government to clarify whether Kapu reservation is possible or not. He should have asked this question before he agreed to be the star campaigner for TDP-BJP combine during the last election. Pawan Kalyan should remember that he endorsed TDP’s electoral promise to provide reservations for Kapus. Now he wants clarity from government without himself having any clarity on his stand.

The political parties should now come clean on the key constitutional and political questions concerning the Kapu reservation. Do they believe in constitutional course or only a political process to deliver the promise of reservations to Kapus? What will be the stand of the politicians in case Justice Manjunath panel rules against the quota? Even if the Commission recommends reservations and government implements it, how will parties react if the court sets them aside?

There is a precedent in the way the quota for Jats was dealt with. The UPA government accorded reservations for Jats purely for political reasons. The apex court has struck it down. The NDA, which came to power later with same political reasons, appealed to the Supreme Court to review its verdict to facilitate reservations for Jats. But, the court refused to do so.

What is the stand of political parties on the OBC protests against Kapu quota? Do they want reservations over and above 50 per cent to assuage both warring factions in Andhra Pradesh? If so, what will be their stand if others rise in protest? These are the questions on which political parties want to be ambiguous and yet play with the sentiments of the people.

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