Hyderabad: Caste has always been the weapon of choice of political leaders. In Andhra Pradesh trouble is brewing as the new capital Amaravati seems to be in the eye of the storm as the ruling party the YSRC argue that it is dominated by one caste.
Unlike its sister Telugu speaking state Telangana, that successfully managed to drop caste politics after bifurcation, so has not been the case in Andhra Pradesh. The Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) chief and Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao successfully came back to power for the second time burying the caste factor. Mr Chandrasekhar Rao enjoys less than 3 per cent caste-base in Telangana.
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Andhra Pradesh, on the other hand, continues to cling to its caste-based politics. As a freedom fighter, Ram Manohar Lohia, said to a news media, “Indian politics is like an insurance policy. You do not have to invest any premium. Caste may be successfully used as and when required and it will yield back the premium with positive returns and added interest." The Kamma's, the Reddy's, and the Kapu's which are the dominating castes in AP have been following and continue to follow this line of politics. Since Independence leaders from the Kamma and the Reddy castes have enjoyed power in the state. There have been a few exceptions like Tanguturi Prakasam, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and T. Anjayya who were from other castes and were elected Chief Ministers, but they were the only ones.
Power in AP mostly lay in the hands of the Reddy’s. It was only after actor turned politician N.T. Rama Rao formed the Telugu Desam that the state saw a shift and got its first Kamma Chief Minister. Since then power is either with the Kamma's or the Reddy's.
Amaravathi (the area of Vijayawada and Guntur districts) was announced by the TD which was in power as Andhra Pradesh's new capital after bifurcation in 2014. Initially, there was resistance from Rayalaseema and the north coastal districts. But as Amaravati was in the centre and access to all districts people accepted former chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s decision.
YSR Congress had alleged that huge tracts of land had been purchased by TD leaders even before the announcement of the capital was done. The party had opposed the procurement of 33,000 acres of farmland. Its president and present Chief Minister of AP Jagan Mohan Reddy had announced that once he became a chief minister he would relook into the land allotments. Before the elections, Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy had told a media network, "Shifting of Amaravati is a catch-22 situation."
The recent heavy rains that lashed the state saw large tracks of land in Andhra Pradesh being inundated. Municipal and urban development minister Botcha Satyanarayana had triggered a row triggered after he said that there was a need to reconsider Amaravati as the state's capital, as the region along the banks of the Krishna river was flood-prone. This raised speculations about the governments stand on the capital. Mr Botcha had also alleged that TD leaders were involved in inside trading of land pointing to BJP MP Sujana Chowdary. Jagan’s people accused Mr Sujana of buying almost 700 acres in the capital region. They also alleged that Bharat the son-in-law of cine hero and TD leader Balakrishna was allotted 300 acres of land in 2015.
Amid this high tension, on Thursday Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy held a meeting with the Capital Region Development Authority (CRDA) officials. After the meeting, Mr Botcha said, "The government never spoke about shifting the capital. The capital should belong to five crore people, not to one caste."
TD leaders were quick to criticise Mr Botcha, as the capital region is dominated by the Kamma caste. The yellow party has already initiated protests to retain Amaravati as the capital. But the YSRC top brass seems to have different plans. The caste demon is here to stay in Andhra Pradesh.