AP: Political, caste polarization complete

Hyderabad: The political polarization on the caste lines appears to be complete in Andhra Pradesh with the Mega Star show on Saturday evening here being a super hit. There has been polarization in the media for more than five years. Now the caste lines are clearly defined. Both media and caste divide is based on politics. It could also be the case that both media and political preferences are dictated by caste.

The caste-politics polarization has been there in the country for decades. Developments in Madras Presidency during and after the freedom struggle illustrate the role of caste in Indian politics. The Congress party was dominated by Brahmins. The non-Brahmin elite launched Justice Party as an alternative to the Congress. The party could not make headway. Dravida Kazhagam was founded in 1942. The name was later changed as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).

With the Congress losing ground in north India in 1967 elections, a number of parties took birth to be used as platforms by non-Brahmin politicians. Socialist party and its splinter groups were offshoots of anti- Congress and anti-Brahmin sentiments. In Tamil Nadu the very basis of Dravidian movement was anti-Brahmin sentiment. Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments in north India were dominated by backward caste leaders and Jats.

Charan Singh, Devilal, Karpoori Thakur were some of the leaders who dominated the political scene in the 1970s. The Janata Party was a conglomeration of non-Congress parties although it included Jan Sangh which is not anti-Brahmin but certainly anti-Congress. Some of the parties which were formed basically on secular and socialist ideologies have ended up as caste and family-controlled fiefdoms. DMK, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Biju Janata Dal, Telugu Desam Party, TRS and YSRCP are some examples. Parties run by unmarried ladies have their extended parivar to contend with. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress never had internal democracy. They are run on personal dictatorial lines.

Telugus were active in both Justice Party and Swatantra Party. NT Rama Rao had established Telugu Desam Party (TDP) as the first mainstream non-Left political alternative to the Congress party. He had the opportunity of watching the Dravidian politics from close quarters since he lived in Chennai for most part of his life.

The TDP had co-opted  the BCs who were neglected by the Congress. The BCs felt empowered. But gradually the party had come to be dominated by Kamma caste  and NTR’s family. The Congress has been a Reddy-dominated party. But it was split by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, son of late YS Rajasekhara Reddy, when he launched his own YSRCP. The Reddy community in AP had moved on to the new party leaving the leaders of other castes in the Congress. While the ruling TDP has come to be known as a Kamma party, the main opposition YSRCP largely belongs to Reddys. The other major community, namely Kapu, would perhaps settle for the Congress.

Mega Star Chiranjeevi is a Congress Member of Rajya Sabha. He floated Praja Rajyam Party before 2009 elections. It came a cropper ending up with 18 seats in a House of 294. He lost even in his native constituency of Palakollu in West Godavari district. Then, he lost interest in running the party and merged it with the Congress and became an MP and a minister in UPA-2 government. Chiranjeevi is the only charismatic leader left in the Congress party as far as Andhra Pradesh is concerned.

Dasari Narayana Rao, a film director of repute and another charismatic personality from the same caste and the same constituency as Chiranjeevi, joined the bandwagon of the Mega Star. Dasari was a popular campaigner for the Congress in 2009 elections. He was rewarded by a membership of Rajya Sabha and a ministerial berth in UPA-2. His name figured in the coal scam for his role as Minister of State in charge of coal portfolio. Dasari, who has been keeping away from politics, has been supporting the Kapu reservation movement spearheaded by Mudragada Padmanabham. He had buried the hatchet and moved closer to Chiranjeevi. He was a prominent invitee at the huge celebrations of the release of cassette featuring Khaidi No 150, produced by Chranjeevi’s son Ram Charan Teja. Chiranjeevi acted in this film which was his first after entering politics in 2009. It happens to be his 150th film.

In 2014 elections, Pawan Kalyan, another Tollywood hero, the Power Star and youngest brother of the Mega Star, campaigned for the BJP and the TDP. He also floated a political party called Jana Sena. He was instrumental in getting the Kapu community to vote for the BJP-TDP alliance. But Pawan Kalyan’s popularity is no match to that of Chiranjeevi. The Congress hopes to garner the support of Kapu community by projecting Chiranjeevi, Dasari and Mudragada as its important leaders. So much so, the three major communities will be the support bases for the three major parties.

Numerically, the Kapus and Reddys are dominating. The problem with the Kapu community is that it is not united and it is not disciplined. All the three parties strive to divide the community. The rest of the castes become the deciding factor. Whichever party mobilises the support of large number of castes will have an edge. The BCs, SCs, STs and the minorities are divided among the three parties. They have to go with any one of these parties. There is no likelihood of a fourth mainstream party emerging to vie for the attention of these caste groups and minorities. The Kapu community has no media support. While Eenadu and Andhra Jyothi are holding the brief for the ruling parties in AP, TS and the Centre, Sakshi is on the side of the YSRCP. Dasari Narayana Rao launched Udayam daily but could not run it beyond five years.

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