Andhra Pradesh politics always idenfied with caste domination. Post bifurcation the caste bug bites to winning parties to show strength and declare as rulers. The same trend continues till date.

In contemporary Indian politics, using the caste system to sway voters is a prevalent practise. A few castes have risen to prominence over the years. Due to their continuous influence in politics and vast property holdings, they have earned the moniker “ruling castes.”

In the early years following Independence, the country saw the rise of leaders whose power rested in the assistance they had provided to people both during and after the freedom movement, regardless of their caste background. Castes that were once prominent eventually rose to power and influenced other facets of society. No state is exempt from this caste-based political alignment, including Andhra Pradesh.

It is understandable why a situation resembling a caste war is occurring in AP prior to the 2024 Assembly elections. Since the state of Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956 along linguistic lines, two large castes—Reddy and Kamma—have dominated its political landscape for almost 50 years. Before the 58-year combined history of AP was split up, they had ruled for more than fifty years.

For brief periods, chief ministers from other castes Jalagam Vengal Rao (Velama), Damodaram Sanjeevayya (SC-Mala), P V. Narasimha Rao (Brahmin), and K. Rosaiah (Vysya) were in charge of the state. One exception was Vengala Rao, who headed the state from 1973 until 1978. the country’s term of emergency in the country came in handy for him to continue in power for five years. Nine CMs from the Reddy community  — Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy (1956-60 &1962-64), Kasu Bhrahmananda Reddy (1964-71), Dr. Marri Channa Reddy (1978-80 & 1989-90), Tanguturi Anjaiah (1980-82), Bhavanam Venkatram (1982 Feb-Sept), Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy (1982-83 & 1992-94), Nedurumalli Janardhan Reddy (1990-92), Dr. YS Rajasekhara Reddy (2004-2009), Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy (2010-2014) and three from the Kamma community – N. T. Rama Rao (1983-84, 1984-89 &1994-95), Nadendla Bhaskar Rao (1984 August16-Sept16) and Nara Chandrababu Naidu(1995-2004) ruled the combined state of AP. NTR was dethroned twice (1984 &1995) by members of his own cabinet, both belonging to the Kamma community.

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Following the emergence of the Telugu Desam Party in 1983, the caste conflict between the two groups reached a boiling point. Up until that point, the state had been governed by the Congress party, whose chief ministers were primarily from the Reddy community. This equation was altered by the TDP, led by matinee hero NT Rama Rao.

Before bifurcation, there was no opportunity for a third caste to participate in politics. Now, the Jana Sena Party (JSP), led by actor Pawan Kalyan, is vying for political power on behalf of the dominant Kapu community. The community had earlier made a weak effort when megastar Chiranjeevi introduced the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP). Even though she received 70 lakh votes and won 18 Assembly seats, it failed to make an impact. Chiranjeevi later merged his party with the Congress.

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Pawan Kalyan tried his luck in 2019, but his party only managed to secure one Assembly seat. Both of the seats Pawan ran for were lost to other candidates. Despite the fact that his tribe makes up nearly 30% of the electorate, Pawan is still undeterred.
In a manner, the Kapu community’s pursuit of political hegemony means that it is “now or never” time. Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga Rao, a Congress member from Vijayawada (East) at the time, was revered by the Kapu community 35 years ago. He was killed bodily by his political rivals, who were allegedly Kamma leaders.

Since then, Ranga has gained widespread recognition among the Kapu community. Every political party in AP feels compelled to celebrate the birth and death anniversaries of Ranga every year only to appease Kapus. Interestingly, though TDP was blamed for the murder of Ranga, his wife and son (both former legislators of Congress) joined the TDP and are still sailing with the same.

The community’s hopes have now been raised by Pawan’s entrance. Following the split, the Reddy and Kamma communities have each served one AP term. YS Jaganmohan Reddy (YSRCP) and Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) are currently political rivals. They might not think twice to band together if necessary to keep Kapus from winning the political power struggle.

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Kanshi Ram, the head of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), made an effort to bring the state’s Scheduled Castes together during the 1994 elections in merged AP. Later, under Chandrababu Naidu’s leadership 26 years ago, dominating castes Reddy and Kamma took action to undermine efforts to bring about unity among the Scheduled Castes by adopting the classification of SC reservations into A, B, C, and D categories.

Some people wonder what would happen if Chandrababu and JSP were to share power. Some claim that such a third force could end up serving as both Reddys’ and Kammas’ “Bhasmasura.” Whom will Naidu back if forced to choose between Pawan and Jagan? is a related question. So, an ascendant third caste has the power to completely alter AP’s political landscape.

In the event of a direct election battle between the ruling YSRCP and TDP-combine, caste will take centre stage! The outlines of the final political picture will also be somewhat influenced by Bharat Rashtra Samiti’s capacity to influence the Kapu community! The BJP and Left parties may be under pressure to fortify a potential united opposition to the YSRCP. #hydnews #khabarlive #hydlive

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A political journalist based in Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. He heads our AP bureau. A flair knowledge of political run in every party plus good rapport in government and political circles. Having 10+ years of experience in print and television news. A good commentarator too.