The scheduled caste group leader Manda Krishna Madiga sharing the stage with PM Modi is a watershed moment in Telangana politics, with profound implications for the 2024 state assembly elections and beyond.

Madiga Krishna sharing stage with PM Modi in Hyderabad has become significant for several reasons such as, Krishna Madiga is a popular leader among the Madiga community, which is the largest Scheduled Caste community in Telangana. The Madigas have been demanding increased reservation in education and employment for many years. Krishna Madiga’s presence on stage with PM Modi is seen as a sign that the BJP is serious about addressing the concerns of the Madigas.

The BJP is trying to expand its base in Telangana ahead of the 2024 state assembly elections. The party has made significant gains in Telangana in recent years, but it is still not a major player in the state. By sharing stage with a popular Madiga leader, the BJP is hoping to appeal to Madiga voters and other Scheduled Caste voters.

PM Modi’s gesture of consoling Krishna Madiga when he got emotional on stage was seen as a sign of empathy and respect for the Madiga community. This gesture is likely to resonate with the Madigas and other Scheduled Castes, who have often felt marginalized and neglected by the political establishment.

Overall, Madiga Krishna sharing stage with PM Modi is seen as a significant development in Telangana politics. It is likely to have a positive impact on the BJP’s electoral prospects in the state, and it is also a sign that the BJP is serious about addressing the concerns of the Madiga community and other Scheduled Castes.

In addition to the above, here are some other reasons why Madiga Krishna sharing stage with PM Modi has become significant in Hyderabad:

  • It is a sign of growing political clout of the Madiga community. The Madigas are a numerically strong community in Telangana, and they are increasingly asserting themselves politically. Madiga Krishna’s presence on stage with PM Modi is seen as a validation of the community’s political aspirations.
  • It is a sign of BJP’s increasing focus on social justice issues. The BJP has traditionally been seen as a party of the upper castes and the middle class. However, in recent years, the party has been trying to reach out to lower castes and other marginalized groups. Madiga Krishna’s presence on stage with PM Modi is seen as a sign that the BJP is serious about addressing the concerns of these groups.
  • It is a sign of changing political landscape in Telangana. Telangana has been ruled by the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) since its formation in 2014. However, the BJP has made significant gains in the state in recent years. Madiga Krishna sharing stage with PM Modi is seen as a sign that the BJP is challenging the TRS’s hegemony in Telangana.
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On the other hand, since the Modi government failed to deliver on its promise of internal reservations for Madigas within the SC fold, it was widely speculated that the Manda Krishna Madiga-led MRPS would ditch them this time.

On November 11, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi campaigns from the Parade Ground in Hyderabad for the upcoming Telangana Assembly elections, sharing the stage with him would be Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS) leader Manda Krishna Madiga. This is considered politically significant as MRPS wields clout over Madigas, a Dalit community with a sizeable population historically occupied as leather workers and manual scavengers.

From 2013, PM Modi has closely interacted with Manda Krishna Madiga whose organisation MRPS has been demanding internal reservations within the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. Following a meeting held with Manda Krishna, the BJP in its 2014 manifesto promised internal reservations. Since the Modi government failed to deliver the promise, it was widely speculated that the MRPS would ditch them this time. But that is not to be.

So why is the MRPS continuing its allegiance to the BJP, despite criticism within Dalit communities that the BJP and the Sangh have sided with oppressors in many states? According to an MRPS leader, one reason could be the experience in Karnataka, where the previous Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government had announced internal reservations for SCs in March 2023. This happened because of pressure and lobbying by the MRPS. 

The history of MRPS

There are two major Dalit communities in the Telugu states – the Malas and Madigas. Apart from them, there are 55 subcastes such as Relli, Dakkali, Budaga Jangam etc. There are also four major anti-caste Ambedkarite organisations in Telangana – Dalita Mala Mahanadu (DMM), MRPS, Kula Vivaksha Porata Samithi (KVPS) and Kula Nirmulana Porata Samithi (KNPS). Out of these, Dalita Mala Mahanadu had dominance for several decades but at present, MRPS is the most prominent one. 

The MRPS was established in July 1994 in Edumudi village, Prakasam district of Andhra Pradesh, under the leadership of Manda Krishna Madiga and others with the aim of implementing internal reservations. 

The movement is known popularly as ‘Madiga Dandora’ and refers to advocacy for the sub-classification of reservations. 

Scholars assert that affirmative action policies in the post-Independence era led to certain Dalit communities being more advanced than others and having better access to government initiatives, leading to conflict within SC communities. Hence, the marginalised communities within the Scheduled Castes found resonance in demands made by the MRPS. 

Why Madigas matter in the election arithmetic

There were 54.08 lakh Dalits in Telangana as per the 2011 census, comprising 15.5% of the state’s population. Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao in 2021 said that this percentage had gone up to about 17% while seeking a nationwide caste census by the Union government. 

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Among the Dalit population in the state, Madigas are numerically more powerful than Malas but socially and economically disadvantaged in comparison. Malas are seen as having reaped the benefits of reservation disproportionately among SCs due to various social and political factors. Madigas are believed to constitute about 50% of the Dalit population in the state, which means they are the single largest block among the 59 sub-castes of Telangana. Since the formation of MRPS in 1994, they received the support of other SC sub-castes such as Dasari, Sindhollu, Dandasi, and Bindla apart from Madigas. Manda Krishna also rose in prominence as the face of these communities. 

Not all Madigas are happy

However, some anti-caste organisations do not seem happy with the allegiance shown by MRPS towards Modi. They said it is surprising that the MRPS is still in talks with the BJP which is not going to form the government this time in the state. “This is a move to polarise Dalit votes between BJP and BRS,” said Abhinav from KVPS.

Historically, Dalits have supported Congress as they have benefitted largely through land distribution/land assignment and the Indiramma Illu (house allotment scheme). This election is considered to be a tough face-off between two big parties in the state, the BRS and Congress. However, in the past, when Congress was in power in Andhra Pradesh and at the Union government as well, it had failed to fulfil its promise of sub-categorisation. While critics of MRPS have objected to its association with BJP leaders, others have argued that the organisation is only trying to achieve its demand of fair representation for Madigas and other vulnerable Scheduled Castes, and not to align itself with a specific party’s ideology. 

“How can the BJP, which refused to undertake a caste census, implement internal reservation scientifically? The same happened with women’s reservation. If Modi, who announced a Backward Class CM face, is worried about BCs, he should have provided reservation for BC women in the reservation bill,” Abhinav said. 

PM Modi, who was in Hyderabad on November 7, addressed a BC Atma Gourava Sabha, a huge gathering at LB stadium, and promised that BJP will have a leader from a BC community as Telangana’s Chief Minister if voted to power. 

Abhinav said the BJP has managed to unite BCs cutting across parties. “But we have seen several instances where BCs attacked Dalits in the past ten years,” he noted. However, he said that the MRPS leaders sharing the campaign stage with Modi will lead to discussions about the question of internal reservations at the ground level.

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Some activists said the BJP had been maintaining close ties with Manda Krishna, a powerful figure in the Telugu states, to woo Dalit voters for the past decade. “Why did the BJP not introduce a Bill for sub-categorisation in Parliament, where it has a majority? Had they done it before, would Dalits not have supported them?” asked an activist from an Ambedkarite organisation who did not wish to be identified. 

On the other hand, an MRPS leader said, “Other (Dalit) organisations may have different priorities. Our demand for the sub-categorisation of SC reservations has been a long-standing one. It was earlier promised by the Congress government but was not ratified by the Parliament. We have held talks with several parties and BJP has promised it. They are in power and we have to demand it from them. We had protested asking PM Modi to take a decision regarding the categorisation of SCs and were detained. We will keep reminding them of their promises.” In 2022, during PM Modi’s visit to Hyderabad, a scuffle broke out between workers of MRPS and BJP workers. Visuals showed BJP workers assaulting MRPS activists when they tried to block the entrance to the PM’s event in protest against the BJP’s failure to implement internal reservations within 100 days of coming to power, as promised in its 2014 manifesto. 

“Manda Krishna Madiga had met PM Modi in Warangal this year in July to discuss the issue of internal reservations,” he said. 

“Manda Krishna added Madiga to his name as a symbol of assertion which was considered derogatory until then and gave an identity to lakhs of people. Raising these demands before the government is important. It should not be sidelined,” said Sujatha Surepally, Dalit activist and professor at Satavahana University.

Speaking to #Khabarlive last year about the MRPS’s association with the BJP and the criticism it has received for this, independent scholar and writer Dr Gurram Seetharamulu had said that the MRPS’s strategy has always been “shrewd” due to Madigas and other SC subcastes’ past experience of being politically upstaged by Mala-led lobbies.

He said that “political reciprocity” has always been a key strategy of the MRPS, noting that they have reached out to Congress, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Left parties, and are now negotiating with the BJP, to attain their specific goal of sub-categorisation which can perhaps only be achieved by collaborating with those in power. 

Overall, Madiga Krishna sharing stage with PM Modi is a significant event with far-reaching implications for Telangana politics. It is likely to have a major impact on the 2024 state assembly elections, and it is also a sign of the changing political landscape in the state. ■ #hydnews #khabarlive #hydkhabar