A State Of Flux
The Congress chief minister in Andhra Pradesh, N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, hasn’t shown the grace and political acumen of, say, a Digvijay Singh. As the then incumbent Congress chief minister, he presided over the seamless and fuss-free division of the biggest state India has seen—the original Madhya Pradesh—to create Chhattisgarh in 2000. Contrast this with Kiran Reddy’s response to a near-identical circumstance. But everything else aside, there is one under-appreciated fact: Kiran’s open resistance to the creation of a new Telangana state embodies the historical arrogance of a community that has ruled over the Telugu-speaking people for several decades. Indeed, his politics is nothing but an attempt to prolong the ‘Reddy rule’ of Andhra Pradesh.
The state of Andhra Pradesh, as we see it on the map today, was created through the merger of two regions with distinct identities. History, and the benefit of hindsight, throws light upon what was essentially a Reddy project to merge the Hyderabad state and the Andhra state in 1956. (Interestingly, the Reddys were not even enumerated as a separate caste in the 1931 census.)
Starting with B. Gopala Reddy in 1956, for the next few decades seven out of 10 times it was a Reddy who took oath as the chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh till N.T. Rama Rao, a Kamma, stormed to power in 1983. During these 27 years, the Reddys effectively managed to oust D. Sanjivayya, the country’s first Dalit CM (1960-62) and also P.V. Narasimha Rao, a Brahmin (1971-73). J. Vengal Rao, from the land-owning Velama Dora caste of Telangana, was the sole exception—the only non-Reddy allowed to complete his term. Only to be replaced in 1978 by Marri Chenna Reddy—who indeed came to power, not to forget, riding on a separate Telangana plank.
The Reddy domination in the Congress was so complete that the CMs’ list till 1983 is a ready-reckoner for the community: Bezawada Gopala Reddy, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Tanguturi Anjaiah, Bhavanam Venkatarami Reddy and Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy. No other caste could even aspire to a leadership role within the Congress party.
In fact, it took matinee idol NTR and his ‘Telugu aatmagauravam’ idea to break this unnatural stranglehold of just one community over an entire state, his Telugu Desam Party vehicles carrying the land-owning, entrepreneur Kamma caste to power. But the Congress still retained its Reddy leadership to take him on. When the Congress defeated NTR in 1989, it was again the Reddys ruling the roost: M. Chenna Reddy (1989-90); N. Janardhana Reddy (1990-92) and K. Vijayabhaskara Reddy (1992-94) till the TDP came back to power in 1994. The decade-long TDP rule after that was disrupted only by another Reddy of the Congress, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy. YSR, like Chenna Reddy, again made the false promise of Telangana to win votes and become CM in 2004.
Meanwhile, the continuous churn in society led to the emergence of an OBC caste, the Kapus. One sign of the arrival of this social bloc in politics came in the fleeting existence of the Praja Rajyam Party, built around the appeal of the popular Telugu movie star, Chiranjeevi. The party, attracting Kapus in droves, debuted in the 2009 elections. But as it turned out, it could only absorb the anti-incumbency votes against Rajasekhara Reddy, paving the way for his re-election in a triangular contest. And so, unfortunately, the Kapu emergence again only worked to the benefit of the Reddys.
After YSR’s death in a helicopter crash in 2009, the community’s demand was that Jaganmohan, his son, be installed as CM. When the Congress chose their most experienced minister in the government, K. Rosaiah (a Bania), as CM, Jagan resigned from the party in November 2010 and formed a new party taking his father’s name. Quickly, a panicky Congress fell back upon the Reddys and installed N. Kiran Kumar Reddy as CM. To balance the fallout, the party high command also got Chiranjeevi to merge his party with the Congress.
When the Congress eventually decided to implement its election promise of 2004 and create a separate Telangana state, little did it realise that the current CM would be no different from YSR in trying to stall the process. Kiran Reddy has in fact raised a banner of rebellion, opposing the decision of the Congress leadership. Meanwhile, Jagan Reddy, fresh out of jail after a 16-month-long incarceration, too has pitched in for an undivided Andhra Pradesh. His party has even started negotiating with the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has always been a Telangana supporter.
With everyone trying to get their two pennies’ worth, the other dominant caste, the Kammas, too have decided they don’t want a separate state (they have been sharing power with the Reddys all along). They have been citing Hyderabad city as a bone of contention. As for the TDP under Chandrababu Naidu, they did a flip-flop on Telangana only to later oppose the division of the state.
Any change in geographical boundaries of the state will upset the territorial dominance of Reddys. Though Kamma dominance is restricted to just the Andhra region, it has economic interests in Hyderabad city. The rest of the castes are not really bothered about the outcome, for their lot is to be ruled by either the Reddys or the Kammas. This scenario of caste dominance and power can possibly be changed only by the emergence of a separate Telangana and Andhra states which will unsettle the caste equations and give rise to new democratic forces.
(Mallepalli Laxmaiah is a senior journalist and co-chair of the Telangana Joint Action Committee )
In the last 55 years, politics in Andhra Pradesh has been unfortunately dominated by two communities with a feudal outlook—the Kammas and the Reddys (What’s Under a Surname? Well, a Whole State, Dec 16). Most chief ministers have been Reddys or Kammas despite the communities together not amounting to more than 15 per cent of the population. And it’s not as if there are no capable individuals from other communities. The bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh into two states is bound to affect power equations, leading to a diminishing of the influence of these two communities. What we are witnessing today in Andhra Pradesh are attempts by the two communities to continue to hold on to their clout.
K.R. Srinivasan, Secunderabad
M. Laxmaiah has written about what is well-known and accepted for a long time.
H.N. Ramakrishna, Bangalore
"Jagan resigned from the party in November 2010 and formed a new party taking his father’s name. Quickly, a panicky Congress fell back upon the Reddys and installed N. Kiran Kumar Reddy as CM". This is not true. Jagan resigned to Congress party after Kiran has been appointed as CM.
There is a movie releasing, called Joe B. Carvalho. Apparently, the hero, being a young man, should introduce himself as J. B., during a job interview. The name seems very similar to 'Jo Bhi Karva lo'. The name J. B. Carvalho seems even more alarming in Punjabi, and notably, Haryana also. When the person is allowed to clarify the matter in the name, he should give his full identity, including what B. stands for, in full measure.
Shri Mallepalli Laxmaiah is a senior Telugu journalist. So one began reading his article in Outlook with some expectations of fuller coverage of issues involved, if not Objectivity. As Shri Laxmaiah is one of the vociferous advocates for a separate Telangana state, one cannot and should not expect, an academic objectivity from him. Yet one is disappointed .
In all fairness, he should not have reduced the contemporary "Save Andhra Pradesh" agitation which has been drawing crores of men, women and children on to the streets in Seemandhra, into a conspiracy hatched by just two politically and economically dominant Reddy & Kamma communities. This is simply a ridiculous and outrageous proposition.
The "Save AP" agitation has begun and run not by the Reddy & Kamma politicians with vested interests. These two dominant communities have been bypassed by the "Aam Admis" (Samaanya pourulu )of Seemandhra, for when the state is divided, the (i) Cultivators fear for loss of irrigation for their lands, (ii) the young people feel the loss of access to education and employment opportunities in the future Hyderabad city and (iii) the lakhs of people from Seemandhra who began to live in Telangana/ Hyderabad , fear for their lives and properties when the TRS parochialists come to power .
There is an historical irony here, when Shri Laxmaiah says that in the divided States/ scenarios, Kapus (an OC community in Coastal AP) --the largest (about 15 % of populationn) are likely to come to power in Seemandhra, thus replacing Reddys and Kammas. And the OBCs in general and Munnuru Kapus in particular, are likely to replace Reddy/Velama Doras in Telangana.
Here the "Historical Irony" is in terms of the fact that Reddys and Kapus were NOT different from one another till a few decades ago . The term "Reddy " refers to one's high status in a village like the "Village Head/Mukhia". In Rayalaseema till today a "pettandar"/rich and dominant person" of a village from ANY community can add "Reddy" to his name. So in R.Seema, there are Reddys from (Kapu) Reddys, Kammas, Yadavas etc .Minister Raghuveera Reddy is from the Yadava caste.
As for Telangana, when the 1921 Population Census was about to commence, the Reddy Association of Telangana had directed all its members NOT to report "Kapu" as their caste but instead report "Reddy " As usual, "One-upmanship" which is the ideological corner stone of all castes among Hindus prevailed !! So over time, Reddys and Kapus began to see them selves as "different" castes.
IN THE PRE --MODERN TIMES THERE WAS NO CASTE CATEGORY CALLED "REDDY" ! THE ANCESTORS OF THE PRESENT DAY REDDYS WERE CALLED "KAPU " ! KAPU MEANS PROTECTOR /GUARDIAN. HENCE, EARLIER ON A MAJORITY OF THE CULTIVATORS (INCUDING THE LATER DAY REDDYS) WERE CAKLLED KAPU !!
No wonder, the 1931 Census Report of Seemandhra (which was the last one to mention caste-wise figures for Seemandhra) did not report the population figures for Reddys ! They were referred to as Kapus !!
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