Telangana BJP leader Dr K Laxman, who belongs to the Munnuru Kapu community, was recently nominated to the Rajya Sabha. The party is seemingly hoping to send a positive message to the community through his elevation.

A collage of BJP leaders from the Telugu statesImages: Facebook
news Politics Thursday, June 02, 2022 - 20:07

Earlier this week, the BJP declared that Dr K Laxman would be one of its eight Rajya Sabha nominees from Uttar Pradesh. While the news came as a surprise to many, BJP insiders believe it is a well-deserved elevation for the leader as the party began making inroads into Telangana, winning four Lok Sabha seats, during his tenure as the state BJP chief. Dr Laxman, presently the party’s OBC Morcha National President, filed his nomination papers in Lucknow in the presence of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The announcement has bolstered the belief that the party is trying hard to win the support of the Backward Classes (BC), which account for nearly half the electorate, with the Munnuru Kapus alone having a 12% vote share in the state. Dr Laxman hails from the Munnuru Kapu community, as do current state party chief Bandi Sanjay and Nizamabad MP Dharmapuri Arvind. Former finance minister and Huzurabad MLA Eatala Rajender hails from the Mudiraj caste, which again comes under BC. With Dr Laxman’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha, many BC leaders in Telangana are now in important positions. The party is seemingly hoping to send a strong positive message to the community through his elevation.

Interestingly, a week ago the TRS nominated Vaddiraju Ravichandra, also a Munnuru Kapu, to the Rajya Sabha.

Speaking to TNM, BJP spokesperson NV Subhash said that the party believes that BCs are inadequately represented in Telangana and aims to change this. He said, “BC voters constitute nearly 52% of the electorate in Telangana, but the community is not proportionally represented. Among BCs, Kapus are very under-represented, be it in education, finance or politics. Laxman ji visited all the districts as part of his yatra when he was the BJP state President. He helped consolidate the votes from the community and people supported the BJP in 2018. Laxman ji’s efforts helped the party win four MP seats in the state.”

It was in 1999 that Dr Laxman was first voted to power from the Musheerabad Assembly constituency in Hyderabad; he also served as the deputy floor leader of the party in the legislative assembly. He was re-elected in 2014 and then became the floor leader. In 2016, he was appointed the party’s state president. He also held various other leadership positions in the party right from the time of unified Andhra Pradesh. In 2018, when he was hoping for a hattrick from the Musheerabad constituency, he lost terribly, ending up only third, after the TRS and the Congress candidates. Despite this, two years later, the party decided to elevate him by appointing him the party’s OBC Morcha National President.

Subhash said that through Dr Laxman’s RS elevation, the party wants to send across a message that it stands with BCs and that Telangana is the focus of its attention. “In the south, the BJP is really interested in uplifting OBCs. In the Parliament too, the maximum number of OBC representatives are from the BJP. In PM Modi’s cabinet too, several OBC legislators have been given a place. Three national leaders have visited Telangana and in the near future, the party executive meeting is likely to be held in Hyderabad. Hence, clearly the party’s focus is on Telangana,” he added.

New strategy after Huzurabad victory?

Some political observers believe that the BJP’s new strategy is drawn from its success last year in Huzurabad where Eatala Rajender, a new entrant in the party, swept the bye-poll. According to a senior party leader, after this victory the BJP decided that its focus should be the BC communities. The Munnuru Kapu community features on top of this list with its significant vote bank.

However, Prof K Nageswar, journalist and political analyst, said it is unlikely that the BJP is playing the caste card in the state. “When there are already two leaders from the Munnuru Kapu caste, why would the party choose a third from the same community for the RS from Telangana? If they really wanted to strategically plan along caste lines, they would have chosen someone from another caste to create goodwill among that caste too. Dr Laxman has been associated with the party since his student days. His elevation is the reward for loyally serving the party all these years,” he told TNM.

“That said, caste may have been a factor in choosing him over the other names in the state, but it definitely wasn’t the only factor. When G Kishan Reddy was made a cabinet minister, did the Reddy community rally behind the BJP? Caste doesn’t work in such a mechanical way,” Prof Nageswar added.

According to NV Subhash, who is also the grandson of former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, BC communities have always been in focus since united Andhra Pradesh. “During PV Narsimha Rao’s tenure as Andhra Chief Minister in 1972, he gave the maximum number of tickets to BCs in order to fight the dominant Reddys. Many BC leaders also made it to his cabinet. NT Rama Rao and PV Narasimha Rao both played a vital role in the upliftment of BCs and now the BJP wants to do the same.”

BJP eyes Kapus in Andhra too

In neighbouring Andhra Pradesh too, the party seems to be focused on the Kapus. When asked about the reason behind, a senior BJP leader from the state who is unhappy with the development told TNM that it is clearly not a winning strategy. “Time has proven that the Kapu strategy doesn’t really work for the BJP in Andhra Pradesh. In the 2019 Assembly elections, the BJP got only about 1% of the total vote share.”

It must be noted that the present state party president Somu Veerraju and the previous state president Kanna Lakshminarayana are from the Kapu community.

According to the senior leader, caste politics will not do the trick for the party in Andhra Pradesh as the people will only vote in favour of a party that focuses on welfare and development. “In the Tirupati bye-poll in 2021 too, the party put up a dismal performance. The candidate finished only third in the race with a vote share of 5.16% despite the party being in alliance with Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party, which has a grip on the Kapu community as he himself belongs to the caste,” he added.

Speaking to TNM, Mallu Rajesh, a political analyst from Andhra Pradesh, however, said he believes that BJP’s support for the Kapus is likely to pay off. “Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party and the BJP should be seen as one as they are already in an alliance. The alliance has gained prominence in recent times. The youth are in favour of Pawan Kalyan and as the actor-turned-politician hails from the Kapu community, it will be an advantage to the BJP.”

“The Kapu community has a sizeable population accounting for nearly 27% of the electorate. The party will use the alliance with JSP well, so much so that Pawan Kalyan is likely to be announced as the alliance’s chief ministerial candidate soon. Even if they get 15% of the Kapu vote it will become a deciding factor.”

Analysts also believe that the BJP will publicise the fact that despite being a dominant caste in the Telugu states, there has not been a single chief minister from the Kapus, be it in united Andhra Pradesh or after the bifurcation.

When asked why the BJP chose Kapus instead of any other BC community, Mallu Rajesh said, “It is very difficult to consolidate the BC electorate. The BCs have several castes and sub castes. They are divided. Choosing one caste from BCs would offend the others. Meanwhile, the Kapus – though they have sub castes, they are all united – making it a safer bet for the party.”

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