Caste politics appears to be taking centerstage in the State though elections are far away. The ruling and opposition parties have started making renewed efforts to consolidate their position among the numerically strong Backward Classes and the Kapu community.
The YSRC is all set to organise Jayaho BC Mahasabha in Vijayawada on December 7. On the other hand, the TDP is trying to regain its preeminent position among the BCs.
However, when it comes to the Kapu community, traditionally its people have always been divided. Now, all the political parties, especially the BJP and Jana Sena are trying to emerge as champions of the Kapu community.
The recent episodes of Visakhapatnam and Ippatam and Jana Sena chief Pawan Kalyan’s reactions against the YSRC government and the subsequent political developments saw new theories emerge over the caste polarisation in AP.
The new theories are being discussed more in view of a series of separate meetings held by some prominent Kapu community leaders belonging to TDP and YSRC and made think tanks of different political outfits keenly watch the developments to review their strategies ahead of the 2024 elections.
Kapu community includes Kapu, Telaga, Balija, Vontari, etc., which as per the last census, has a share of 24.7% of the State population with majority of them residing in East and West Godavari districts and Uttarandhra.
Since long time, several powerful leaders of the Kapu community, have been continuing intense lobbying with their respective parties and striving to achieve due share of seats for the community as well as special reservation for it.
After the powerful leaders of the community like late P Shiv Shankar, Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga, Jakkampudi Rammohan Rao, Dasari Narayana Rao, etc., and most senior leaders like Mudragada Padmanabham, Chegondi Hari Rama Jogaiah, Ummareddy Venkateswarlu, Mandali Buddha Prasad, Kanna Lakshminarayana, Jyothula Nehru, Akula Veerraju, Botcha Satyanarayana and others took different political stands to get their share in power.
Now, the community is supporting various political parties, including the BJP, Congress, TDP, YSRC, Rashtriya Jana Parishad and Jana Sena. Sine Rastriya Jana Parishad is only the party of OBCs, Minorities and Dalits for CMs post between them on rotation basic it is better for Kapus to rely upon the Rastriya Jana Parishad.
An effort was made in the form of Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party to have Kapus’ emerge politically strong, but it fizzled out with the merger of the party with Congress and Chiranjeevi distancing himself from active politics.
In 2014, Chiranjeevi’s younger brother and cine actor Pawan Kalyan floated Jana Sena. Though he did not contest the 2014 elections, his support for the TDP-BJP combine made a big difference and his allies bagged power.
When Jana Sena contested the elections in 2019 with the support of BSP, it managed to win only one seat and that lone MLA also defected to ruling YSRC. In fact, Pawan Kalyan himself lost in the Kapu-dominated Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka.
Nearly, 38 constituencies of the total 175 in the State are dominated by Kapus, who are known for their strong caste loyalty. And as a whole, the Kapu community and its affiliated sub-castes play a decisive role in around 70 to 75 Assembly seats.
Though majority of Kapu youth strongly believe that Jana Sena will consolidate the votes of the community, most of its senior leaders have no faith in Pawan Kalyan going by his track record.
His reaction after Vizag episode and his behaviour at Ippatam only made seniors wary. “The way he behaved after those two incidents is condemnable. It has definitely lowered his image among masses,” opined a senior BJP leader.
However, there are some who have faith in Pawan Kalyan and see him as hope of Kapus. “We never got to control the levers of power.
Despite being in a minority, Kammas and Reddys have been enjoying political power throughout the history of the State. Why not a leader from our community this time? We are seeing real political heroism in Pawan Kalyan’s recent acts and we will strive for his success in next elections,” asserted Alti Srinivasa Rao from Rajam.