The ruling TDP is seemingly attempting to tap into the Kapu vote bank, which plays a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the state.

Andhra to give half of Economically Backward Classes quota to Kapus Will Naidu gain
news Reservation Tuesday, January 22, 2019 - 16:13

The Andhra Pradesh government on Monday approved a proposal to grant 5% quota to the Kapu community in the state, days after the Centre recently passed a Bill to provide 10% reservation to Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) from the general category in jobs and education.  

The decision to ensure that half of the quota under the EBC category be reserved for Kapus was taken after a state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu. Speaking to reporters, state I&PR Minister Kalava Srinivasulu said, "If we were to look at those who can be classified as economically backward, it is clear that there are many people from the Kapu community. We have a Commission report to show this on paper. The other communities will also get justice because they will also get the remaining half of the EBC quota.” 

"We are also working on getting the Kapus reservation under the BC category as well. There is no question of letting that fight go. However, since we got a choice now, we wanted to use it for the benefit of the Kapu community," he added.

With its latest move, the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP) is seemingly attempting to tap into the Kapu vote bank, which plays a crucial role in deciding the outcome of the upcoming Legislative Assembly and Lok Sabha Elections in the state.

Reservation for Kapus

Constituting around 25% of the population in the state according to some estimates and mainly concentrated in the twin Godavari districts, the Kapu community plays a key role in deciding a party's chances in any election. Granting them reservation, was one of Naidu's poll promises. 

In January 2016, during a Kapu 'Garjana Mahasabha' held in East Godavari district, political leader Mudragada Padmanabham allegedly riled up the crowd, following which the crowd went on a rampage. Protesters set fire to eight bogies of the Ratnachal Express at Tuni before they went on to damage a police station, and police and private vehicles.

Following the incident at Tuni, the TDP government constituted the Manjunatha Commission to look into the reservation issue. Following this, the state cabinet took the decision to grant reservation to the Kapus on the basis of the Commission's report. A new BC-F category was created for this purpose, where other sub-castes were also added. 

BCs get 29% reservation in the state under A,B,C,D and E categories, while 15% and 6% reservations exist for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), respectively. With another 5% being added under the BC-F category, the total reservation in the state was proposed to go up to 55%, which meant that the Centre's nod was necessary as it needed to be included with an amendment to Schedule 9 of the Constitution.

In August last year, the TDP even moved a private bill in the Lok Sabha over the issue, but to no avail. 

Observers say that the TDP has seized the moment ahead of the elections. "It is a big benefit for the TDP, politically speaking. With this 5%, even if they are able to quickly recruit 50,000 or 1 lakh people for jobs quickly or ensure that more youth from the community get admission in colleges and universities, then it will definitely be an advantage to Naidu. The negativity might be spun around and many from the community might get a positive image on him. How big the effect will be, I don't know, but it definitely is a positive stance to take politically," Dr Pentapati Pulla Rao, a senior political observer, tells TNM.

However, Kapu leaders say that the latest decision by the state is far from enough to satisfy the community's demands. 

Speaking to TNM, Vasireddy Yesudas from the Kapu Joint Action Committee (JAC) said, "Our demand has been straightforward. We want BC status only because there is still uncertainty in the distribution of the EBC quota. Historically, Kapus have been unable to compete with other forward castes, which is why we are demanding to be included in the BC category. If they grant us quota from the 10%, we will again be competing with the same forward castes." 

Taking the example of Maharashtra, where the state Legislature unanimously passed a Bill granting 16% reservations to the politically influential Maratha community under a new SEBC category without disturbing other existing quotas, Vasireddy says, "We are only asking for 5% in the state. What is stopping the government from holding discussions with legal experts and working out how they can grant us the quota with the approval of just the state Assembly and the Governor? Otherwise, there is no compromise and we will be satisfied only with the BC status."

The Kapu JAC is now planning to hold a meet at Kathipudi in East Godavari district on January 31, the third anniversary of the 'Garjana Mahasabha', to chalk out their future course of action.  

No legal hurdle

Meanwhile, the state government is expecting that the decision will sail smoothly, with no legal hurdles.

Speaking to a media outlet, the state's Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MAUD) Minister P Narayana said, "The Centre clearly said that the distribution of the 10% is in the hands of the state and that is what we are doing. There will be no legal problem. We have taken the call only after the Chief Minister discussed it with the Attorney General and Law Secretary. There is no Bill that is needed to be passed for this and it can be ratified with a Government Order (GO) as the Centre has passed it in Parliament. It can be implemented directly."

The Minister also said that a GO would be issued in one or two days.  

"The Centre has broadly granted 10% to everyone and left the distribution aspect of the decision to the state. They have full authority. Legally there will be no issue," Pulla Rao says in agreement.   

It remains to be seen if the proposal will come up for discussion in the last Assembly session of the elected representatives, scheduled to begin from January 30. For now however, it seems that the move is likely to benefit the TDP. 

Meanwhile, the TDP also seems to be taking yet another step in tapping into the Kapu vote as it is attempting to lure senior leader Vangaveeti Radha, the son of late Kapu leader and Congress MLA Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga, to join the party. Radha had quit the YSRCP after he was upset with the party's decision to field Malladi Vishnu from the Vijayawada Central constituency.

Insiders say that the YSRCP leadership considered Vishnu, a Brahmin, as the community is a considerable vote bank in the constituency.  However, it remains to be seen if Radha's move can dent the Kapu vote bank of the YSRCP in the city. If Radha were to decide that he would join the TDP, then it would only boost the prospects of the party further.