By Rahul Maganti:
After having been alien to Andhra Pradesh politics for nearly three years, I returned to my hometown to exercise the most powerful legal weapon in a democracy – to vote for the first time, only to get disappointed. The faces were the same, but the flags that they held three years before changed colours. The symbols they were fighting with changed. The parties which they criticized five years ago are the ones that gave them tickets. My sample space in the city of Vijayawada, often dubbed as the political capital of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. Yes, the situations were different back then and things really got tough for the politicians after the division of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh, but does that warrant the political fight between parties/ideologies turn into a street fight between two castes?
With the Congress out of the contest right from the start, the contest was always between the Chandra Babu Naidu led Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Jagan Mohan Reddy led YSRCP. The elections in Andhra Pradesh were always fought on the lines of caste, and with this one, caste politics reached the pinnacle.
The reason why a demand for separate Telangana emerged is the exploitation of the less advanced, not-so-developed people of the region of Telangana by the ‘Capitalist Class’ of Coastal Andhra. With the Delta regions of Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari districts having good agricultural facilities compared to the rest of the state, the people of this region slowly and steadily developed their financial clout and became the Capitalist Class. This Capitalist Class predominantly consisted of the Kamma and the Reddy Castes, which wielded the political and financial power amongst themselves. If this continues further, there might be a chance that a demand for a separate North Andhra and Rayalaseema would emerge soon, going by the trends that Telangana was neglected by the rulers from the Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema. The same backwardness would appear in these regions if the political and economic power lie wrestled with the people from the delta region. The next logical step would be a demand for a separate North Andhra and Rayalaseema, which have some of the worst drought hit and backward districts like Vizayanagaram, Srikakulam, Kurnool and Anantapur.
The Reddy’s always wielded political power till the 1980’s, which was then challenged by a Kamma film star NT Rama Rao. Right from the entry of TDP into the election scenario, the fight between Congress and TDP was often perceived as the fight between Reddy’s and Kamma’s. While each of them tasted success alternatively, the whole dynamics shifted with the entry of Jagan Mohan Reddy and the wipe-out of Congress even before the elections. The Reddy’s who threw their weight behind the Congress till the 2009 elections shifted base to the off-shoot of the Congress, the YSRCP, fully knowing that the Congress is set to lose big time in Andhra Pradesh. So, this election can again be termed as a fight between two castes – the Reddy’s and the Kamma’s, but not between two parties or political ideologies.
Chandra Babu Naidu, who ruled Andhra Pradesh for close to 10 years, is a mirror of Modi minus the communal angle. The ‘development’ he inflicted during those 10 years is a development for the rich, the development of the Hitech City and the software industry. While this kind of development is necessary, doing this at the cost of the lives of lakhs of farmers who committed suicide is criminal. Babu is also good at suppressing oppression, as can be proved from empirical evidence of ordering the police to fire at protesters who opposed the increase of electricity charges to satisfy the World Bank. The worst of all, he allied with the Hindutva Brigade of Modi and the BJP only to make it less viable for a secular, socially inclusive voter. Ironically, he termed the alliance with the BJP in 2004 elections as a wrong step and went ahead to eat his own words in 2014.
On the other hand, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, son of the former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhar Reddy, who supported Samakya Andhra agitation is trying to bank on that sentiment. Unfortunately, Jagan is no better than Babu, in fact even worse and had been implicated by the CBI and the courts in many corruption cases. He, along with BJP’s Gali Janardhan Reddy, was involved in the Mining scam in Karnataka. CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have proven beyond doubt that he and his father have done many under the table dealings and are responsible for many financial irregularities. His party candidates have been spending money and distributing tonnes of liquor unprecedentedly. Infinite corruption, money swindling, and what not, the YSRCP is making this a game of money and man-power. The Vijayawada MP seat, being fought between two industrialists, one with declared assets of 128 crores (The TDP Candidate) and the other with 137 crores (The YSRCP Candidate) has already become a money game. Estimations of the lower order will take the money that has been used by the YSRCP candidate to a minimum of 100 crores and the TDP Candidate following closely enough (purely my estimations).
However, with this article, I am tryingÂ to raise a couple of questions. The first question that has been haunting me is that, if they spend crores money to get elected, would they not try to retrieve the same during those 5 years? If our parliament is getting too much Industrialists centric, who will fight for the marginalized, the oppressed and the discriminated? If a clash of interests occurs between the capitalist/industrialists and the working class/common man, which is very common, whose side will they take? Isn’t the answer obvious? A neutral voter doesn’t have many options here. One for Modi and the Hindutva ideology and the other a vote for corruption. Which one do I choose? Which compromise can I afford to make? None. So, should I go for a NOTA, which the Supreme Court itself says, is as good as an invalid vote? No, NOTA is not an option for a person who is so politically inclined like me. What do I do?
With narrowing choices, I decided to set up a couple of parameters to decide whom to cast my vote for:
1) Secular credentials who will help defeat Modi and the BJP.
2) A person who could represent the proletariat and the working class.
If the first one is satisfied, the candidate is failing at the second and the vice-versa. Unfortunately, I could not find both of them in any candidate, and now I frown that I had not opted for a vote in Mumbai, where Medha Patkar contested, who would have been an infinitely better choice compared to these industrialists and power mongers.
The second question that I intend to address is the caste dimension to the elections. I request every person who has been supporting either of the two parties to support them on the basis of their developmental agenda and on ideological grounds, but not on the lines of caste, as has been the case till now. I request every person who has changed their profile pictures to ‘I vote for X’ and every person putting up statuses ‘Vote for Y’ to not do so on caste lines but to do the same after reading the manifesto’s and after taking into account the precedence set by the party.