Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is trying hard to wean the backward castes away from Telugu Desam Party. His numerous money transfer schemes and distribution of elected and nominated posts to BC leaders, including women, is certainly not an innocent welfare measure.
The latest in the series of assaults on TDP is the appointment of BC leaders as chairpersons to the Urban Local Bodies. It is a carefully crafted political move to alienate the backward castes from the TDP with an eye on the next general elections.
The CM must be thinking that he would become undefeatable in the absence of any other political force to challenge him if he were to cut the historical umbilical cord between the TDP and the BCs.
It is universally accepted that BCs are the main sources of strength for the TDP. The BCs have been given top priority in the party and the government since the days of NT Ramarao (NTR), the founder of the party. To be precise, it was NT Ramarao, who first sensed the importance of the BCs who were completely ignored by the Congress party.
As the political historian, Christophe Jaffrelot put it the Congress party was satisfied with its 'politics of extremes', upper castes at one end, and the Dalits at the other. The BCs had never figured prominently in the Congress scheme of things.
Telugu Desam Party took birth at this historical juncture when BCs were demanding quota. The reservation movement was slowly gaining momentum.
So, NTR grabbed the opportunity without giving a second thought and staged a coup against Congress. He retrieved the Muralidharao Commission report on BCs in July 1986, which had been gathering dust since 1982, and announced the raising of the BC quota from 25 percent to 44 percent in education and jobs. Though submitted during the Congress regime, the report was given short shrift by the government.
Another major step NTR took to beat the Congress was the reservations in the local governing bodies which had completely changed profile state politics at the grass-root level. He did not hesitate to extend support to recommendations of the Mandal Commission which favored a 27 percent quota for OBCs.
Though the High Court struck down the 44 percent quota at the state level, the decisions earned TDP the moniker 'Pro BC party'.
NTR's successor Chandrababu Naidu also has carefully nurtured the pro-BC image of the party. Even after the bifurcation of the state, Naidu chose to appoint only BC leaders to lead the parties in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Since day one Jaganmohan Reddy has been perusing a two-pronged strategy to finish Chandrababu Naidu, both personally and politically.
His plan to send Naidu to jail, even for a day, by implicating him in the alleged Amaravati insider-trade, however, is not taking off.
Jagan's attempts have been thwarted by the High Court which quashed all the cases booked/petitions filed against Naidu. The High Court was not satisfied with the scant proof presented by the police.
But, the CM has no such barriers to overcome in luring BCs with welfare schemes and plum posts in the government.
Chief Minister Jagan, last week, sprang a surprise when he earmarked 78 percent of the chairperson posts of corporations and municipalities together to SC, ST, and BCs, a record of sorts and which is comparatively far higher than the legal 50 percent ceiling imposed on the quota by the Supreme Court of India.
Of the 86 posts of Mayors and chairpersons of Urban Local Bodies which the party won recently, as many as 46 posts have been given to the Backward Castes.
Chief Minister's advisor on Public Affairs, Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy went gaga that Jagan had scored over the so-called OBC states in the matter of social justice. To buttress his point that Jagan stands for BCs development, Sajjala stated that backward caste women had been chosen even for prestigious corporations such as Tirupati, Machlipatnam, and Vijayawada.
This is the second major decision Jagan took to rob the TDP of its principal electoral plank, the OBCs, the first being the creation of 56 finance corporations for backward castes in the state.
According to the government, there are 138 castes in the category of backward communities in the state. The government has created a corporation for every caste that has a population of more than 30,000 which resulted in 56 entities. So, of the 56 BC heads appointed for these corporations, as many as 29 are women, an unprecedented move indeed.
Against this backdrop, will Jagan succeed in driving BCs away from TDP?