Can a BC hope to become first CM of T?
Can A BC Hope To Become First CM of Telangana. Backward Class leaders of Andhra Pradesh have to thank the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for the elevation they are going to enjoy in politics.
Backward Class leaders of Andhra Pradesh have to thank the Congress and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) for the elevation they are going to enjoy in politics. Two BC leaders were made chiefs of PCCs in two regions which are slated to become two States soon. This would not have been possible without the competitive politics practised with gusto by the Congress and the TDP. If the secret agenda of Congress president Sonia Gandhi in engineering the Telangana project with single-minded resolve is to end the hegemony of two dominant communities in politics of Telugu land, she has partly succeeded. She received liberal help from Nara Chandrababu Naidu, the TDP chief, who played the game with an instinct of a gambler.
Can we assume that a BC would soon be heading the government in at least one of the two States? Do we have leaders from BC communities who are capable of being at the helm? After Gouthu Latchanna, the tallest among the BC leaders, and Ratnasabhapati, a sophisticated politician who did not scale the heights he deserved, the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema could not produce many leaders who can be considered chief ministerial material. Accomplished politicians like Yerran Naidu and Yanamala Ramakrishnudu had the caliber to lead a State, but there was little chance since they had to contend with Naidu who cannot think of anyone else as chief minister except himself as long as the State was united. A chief of any regional party would not behave in a different way. Now that AP is about to be divided and a person cannot be chief minister for two states simultaneously, Naidu declared that a BC would be made CM of Telangana if people voted TDP to power in the fast approaching general elections. Naidu’s BC card in Telangana is not surprising since it was NT Rama Rao who empowered BC leaders in Telangana when he launched the TDP 31 years ago. Even today, BCs are the main stay for the TDP; majority of the BC leaders are still sailing with the TDP in spite of the party’s dwindling fortunes on account of the ambiguous policy on Telangana. With the decision to divide the State made, the stock of the TDP in Telangana is slowly improving. It may go up further if a tie-up with the BJP is clinched. Naidu is aware of the existence of Modi wave and Modi is conscious of Naidu’s capabilities to mobilise support to NDA. If the TDP-BJP alliance wins the elections, a BC is sure to make it to the post of chief minister in Telangana. If the Congress-TRS combine takes the cake, it will be doubtful if a BC leader stands a chance against the leaders of the dominant castes. As far as AP (Seemandhra) is concerned a BC becoming a CM is outside the realm of possibility. It will be YS Jaganmohan Reddy if the YSRCP makes the grade. Otherwise, it will be Naidu for the third time. If YSRCP is not winning the majority, it is going to be TDP-BJP alliance. Even if, Kiran Kumar Reddy’s party “Jai Samaikyandhra” manages to win majority of the175 seats, it will be the last chief minister of AP who will take oath as the first chief minister of AP (truncated). A BC leader can hope to become a CM only if the Congress scores an upset. Nobody is prepared to bet on the Congress in Seemandhra. The clash of dominant castes for power will continue in AP for some more elections while in Telangana the Reddy community will call the shots for one or two elections. The BCs have been developing financial and political muscle and they and the SCs and STs will dominate the scene after some elections.
Making BC a chief minister is not Naidu’s innovation. Indira Gandhi did it in early 1980s itself when she picked up T Anjaiah to succeed Marri Channa Reddy. But the MLAs belonging to Reddy community were so many and so powerful that Anjaiah had to declare, as a survival tactics, that he is not a BC but a Reddy. He invented a name for himself as Ramakrishna Reddy. He got into marital alliances with Reddys. Indira Gandhi was reportedly shocked at Anjaiah’s stunt. The dominant community would not allow any Congress, non-Reddy chief minister to continue in power.
Damodaram Sanjeevaiah had to vacate the seat for N Sanjeeva Reddy after the latter was absolved of the allegations in connection with nationalisation of RTC routes. PV Narasimha Rao was forced out by the lobbyists of high caste groups. There is a general impression that PV was removed owing to the Jai Andhra agitation which was the result of implementation of Mulki Rules and Land Reforms. But there was a third important reason for PV’s removal. PV gave more than 70 per cent of the seats to the BCs in 1972 elections. Due to Indira’s positive image post-Bangladesh liberation, majority of the BC candidates won. The Congress leaders entrenched in power for decades after independence had put up independent candidates against some weak BC candidates. But the grouse that PV got tickets for so many BCs, mostly in Telangana, made them so angry that they went for his blood. Even if a BC or an SC or a Brahmin was made a CM, it is difficult for the incumbent to survive the tactics of the majority MLAs. Jalagam Vengal Rao did not have this headache because of his proximity to a particular caste in Coastal Andhra and also because of the Emergency during which Indira Gandhi did not have time for lending her ear to dissident leaders.
Sonia Gandhi was evidently fed with all the information regarding the caste equations in the State. She has become adept by now in the caste games that are AP specific. The selection of a former journalist for a seat in Rajya Sabha was solely based on his caste. He was pleasantly surprised when told that the party high command was keen on making him a member of House of Elders. Every decision cleared by Sonia Gandhi, especially since the demise of YS Rajasekhara Reddy, was based on caste calculations. Ram Manohar Lohia who theorised that caste in India is a reality and it has to be factored into politics, would have felt vindicated had he been alive today. The balancing act undertaken by the Congress high command reflects the knowledge of castes and a deliberate willingness to play the game of one-upmanship. For SC card played by K Chandrasekhara Rao (KCR), chief of Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), Naidu used BC trump card. Not to lag behind, Jairam Ramesh who has been quite actively campaigning in Telangana and Seemandhra, declared that a Dalit would be made the first CM of Telangana if people voted for the Congress. Sonia has decided to put on table two BC cards against TDP’s one. The result is Raghuveera Reddy (a BC with Reddy suffix) gets an elevation which he would never have got otherwise. He has become the first president of Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee. Similar luck favoured Ponnala Laxmaiah in Telangana. While the Congress high command is willing to hurt the Reddy community it is not daring enough to strike. This diffidence explains the invitation to Jana Reddy to visit Delhi. Uttam Kumar Reddy was made Acting President of TPCC since the high command does not want Reddys to feel left out. In the Congress circus, political animals are placed in such a way that one would take care of the other. To balance Damodar, a Madiga, Bhatti Vikramarka, a Mala, was brought in as co-chairman of the Pradesh Election Committee.
In AP, Chiranjeevi was given importance by making him chairman of campaign committee. The Congress wants to pamper the Kapu community. Anam Ramanarayana Reddy was asked to head the manifesto committee. Dokka Manikya Varaprasada Rao, a Madiga, who was made co-chairman of Election Committee, was balanced by Panabaka Laxmi, a Mala, who was anointed as co-chairman of manifesto committee headed by a leader from the same district. In both the States, most of the castes were given representation. A Kamma Congress leader has to be elevated in AP. Perhaps, Nadendla Manohar, former Speaker, would be given a position as co-chairman of Election Committee. It seems PCC president Botcha Satyanarayana has opted out citing the difficulties the party is facing in his district. In addition to the troubles faced by the Congress, Botcha has his own problems in Vizianagaram. He needs to devote all his time there for whatever it is worth.
There is no reason for the BCs to rejoice. The reaction of BC leaders in Telangana to the elevation of Laxmaiah is indication to the future developments. No BC leader has wholeheartedly welcomed Laxmaiah’s appointment. The lack of unity among the BCs was exploited so far by the other communities. Even if the Congress-TRS took a bold decision to make a BC leader Chief Minister, it would be impossible for him to breathe easy since more than 30 MLAs in 119-member Telangana Assembly would be from Reddy community. BCs have to fight together if they wish to take advantage of Sonia’s decision in their favour. Otherwise, it would go waste in the same way as the decision of Indira Gandhi did 30 years ago when she made Anjaiah the chieftain.