YSRCP & TDP-led alliance race to bag Backward Caste votes in Godavari region's poll laboratory

DH’s on-the-ground interactions with cross-sections of people revealed that the electoral alliance between Jana Sena, BJP, and TDP appears to be a game-changer in this region.
Last Updated : 09 May 2024, 07:01 IST
Last Updated : 09 May 2024, 07:01 IST

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Rajahmundry/Kakinada/Amalapauram/Eluru: Satish Ambati from Kovvuru engages in an animated discussion with his friends about the upcoming Assembly and Lok Sabha elections as he wraps up his day's work at a pharma company and visits a juice shop in Kotipalli junction in Rajahmundry.

As the discussion went on about the merits and demerits of the ruling party, the opposition alliance, and its candidates, it ended on a lamentable note. “Sadly, the majority of voters in this region, particularly in rural areas, cast their votes based on caste lines. Our country will progress only if people go beyond politics, castes and vote based on the merits of the parties and candidates," Satish told DH while sipping the juice as the summer heat touched 44 degrees.

With around 34 of the total 175 segments of the Andhra Pradesh assembly and five Lok Sabha seats of the total 25 at stake in the Godavari delta region, which is known as the granary of Andhra Pradesh, a cocktail mix of dalits, kapus, and backward classes decides the fate of the political parties.

Justice Sri Krishna Committee, which the Centre appointed to investigate the demand for Telangana's separation from the people of the Andhra region, released a report showcasing the caste based population ratio in the latter region.

According to the report, Scheduled Castes account for about 16.5 per cent, Scheduled Tribes 4.45 per cent, Other Backward Classes 41 per cent, Upper Castes 28.1 per cent, Muslims 8.5 per cent and Other minorities1.55 per cent.

The party that secures the majority seats in this region will form the government of Andhra Pradesh, reflecting the mood of the entire state. The diverse mix of castes that exists in this region offers a perfect laboratory for political parties to sharpen their strategies.

In this region, the TDP-led NDA alliance in the state has allocated majority seats to Jana Sena. It is also expected that the TDP-Jana Sena-BJP alliance will exert its influence in this region. Of the total 175 assembly segments, TDP is contesting in 144, BJP in 10, and Jana Sena in the remaining seats.

Of the total five Lok Sabha segments in this region, alliance partners BJP is contesting in Rajahmundry and Narasapuram, Jana Sena in Kakinada, and TDP is contesting in the remaining two segments, Amalapuram and Eluru.

DH’s on-the-ground interactions with cross-sections of people revealed that the electoral alliance between Jana Sena, BJP, and TDP appears to be a game-changer in this region.

Kapus, who come under the upper caste category and account for about 15 per cent of the category, appear to have decided this time to rally behind Jana Sena, led by Pawan Kalyan, who comes from the same social group, leaving YSRCP to aim for the OBC vote, both numerically and socially strong.

The OBCs, especially Setty Balijas, are equally numerous in the Godavari region, along with Kapus. As part of his strategy, YSRCP chief YS Jagan Mohan Reddy established at least 50 different corporations for the castes that fall under the OBC category.

While traditionally Dalits have been with the YSRCP, backward classes, particularly a sub-caste Setti Balijas, may tilt the balance of any political party's prospects. For ages, the deep-rooted rivalry between Kapus and Setti Balijas has been evident, but in recent times, Dalit assertions, particularly in the Konaseema region, have united the two warring forces.

The Konaseema arson occurred in May 2022, when Kapus and Setti Balijas, for the first time in recent history, united to oppose the YS Jagan government's proposal to name the newly formed district after the Dalit icon Dr. BR Ambedkar.

However, Centre for Politics and Policy Studies (CPPS) president Gowd Kiran Kumar, who has been tracking the politics of both Telugu states, has a different take to offer.

“When the AP CM took the decision to name Konaseema District as DR BR Ambedkar Konaseema District, many opposed the move and violently protested. Most of the protesters belong to the Kapu community, which dominates the region. The BCs were silent and accepted the move. Kapus alienated BCs as they were demanding BC status and SCs as they were against naming Konaseema district as Dr. BR Ambedkar Konaseema District. Politically, it’s a masterstroke by YS Jagan to consolidate SCs and BCs. We need to wait and watch how it will impact the assembly elections,” Kiran told DH.

A total rout in West Godavari, which has 14 Assembly segments, and winning only five segments out of the total 19 in East Godavari severely dented YSRCP’s chances in the 2014 polls.

Five years later, in the 2019 polls, the YSRCP swept through the two Godavari districts, and Jagan became the chief minister.

Pawan Kalyan on the TDP's side now the consolidation of BCs can only help any party bag maximum seats in the electorally crucial Godavari region.

“For us, it's not about caste. It's a misconception that we vote according to caste equations. Our vote depends on the party's performance in government. We will see whether they have provided work and taken care of overall well-being, etc.,” Roddam Satyanarayana of Kalaparru near Eluru, who cultivates two acres of land and a Kurma that comes under the OBC category, told DH.

The race for BC's vote bank is evident, as the YSRCP held ‘Sadhikara Yatras’ and the TDP conducted “Jaya Ho BCs’ in the run-up to the polls. Both parties have been claiming to be the champions of BCs and attempting to woo them.

Published 09 May 2024, 07:01 IST

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