From Tanguturi Prakasam to YS Jagan: Caste and Political Dynamics in Andhra Pradesh

Andhra Pradesh Caste Politics

In Andhra Pradesh, over the 75 years of Independence, political power has been predominantly held by only two dominant castes: Reddy and Kamma. The term ‘Congress’ in Andhra Pradesh is synonymous with a Reddy-centric party, and the same can be said for the ruling YSRCP. TDP, a party that emerged with the slogan of upholding Telugu respect against Congress rule, is dominated by the Kamma community. The Reddy community has historically enjoyed power through Congress and YSRCP, while the Kamma community has experienced the same through TDP, holding power for five terms in Andhra Pradesh, including the combined state era. As the 2024 elections approaching, understanding the caste dynamics in the state is crucial for comprehending the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh.

Chief Ministers in AP history from 1953-2014

On October 1, 1953, the separate state of Andhra Pradesh was formed from the Madras Presidency along linguistic lines. Potti Sriramulu, belonging to the Arya Vysya community, sacrificed his life for the separate state through a hunger strike from October 19, 1952, to December 15, lasting 58 days.

A year after Potti Sriramulu’s death, the separate state of Andhra Pradesh was established. Tanguturi Prakasam Panthulu from the Congress party became the first Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. Prakasam Panthulu, belonging to the Brahmin community, held the CM post from October 1, 1953, to November 15, 1954. Following him, Bezawada Gopalreddy, also from the Congress party, held the CM position from March 1955 to November 1, 1956.

Later, on November 1, 1956, the Telangana region was merged into Andhra Pradesh, with Hyderabad as the capital. For the combined Andhra Pradesh, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy from the Congress party served as the first Chief Minister from 1956 to 1960. From then until 2014, a total of 16 Chief Ministers held that position. Among them, eight Chief Ministers belonged to the Reddy community, namely Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Kasu Brahmananda Reddy, Marri Chennareddy, Bhavanam Venkatrama Reddy, Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy, Nedurumalli Janardhan Reddy, YS Rajasekhar Reddy, and Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy. From the Kamma community, Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao, Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, and from the Brahmin community, PV Narasimha Rao, Jalagam Vengal Rao from the Velama community, Konijeti Rosaiah from the Vysya community, and Damodaram Sanjeevaiah from the Dalit community held the Chief Minister’s position in the combined state of Andhra Pradesh.”

Emergence of Telugu Desam Party

With the establishment of the Telugu Desam Party by Nandamuri Taraka Ramarao in 1982, the dominance of Reddy in politics faced a setback due to the rise of Kamma influence. From then until 2014, power shifted between the Congress and TDP, or rather, between the Reddy and Kamma communities.

NTR, a charismatic film celebrity in the Telugu states, came to power just nine months after founding his party. NTR’s slogans of Telugu self-respect and speeches emphasizing lines like ‘The public are the gods, society is the temple,’ along with promises such as 1 kg of rice for just Rs. 2 and liquor prohibition, attracted the masses and contributed to a landslide victory.

In an unexpected turn of events, when NTR went abroad for treatment, Nadendla Bhaskar Rao, the finance minister in NTR’s first cabinet, took a rebellious step in 1984. He pulled MLAs from the TDP and, with the support of the Congress party, became the chief minister. However, his tenure lasted only a month. NTR led massive protests against Nadendla Bhaskar Rao’s actions with the slogan ‘Dharma Yuddham’ for the restoration of democracy. Eventually, the central government recalled the then governor Thakur Ram and reinstalled NTR as the chief minister. It’s noteworthy that Nadendla Bhaskar Rao also belongs to the Kamma community.

In 1984, the TDP served as the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha, securing 31 seats in Andhra Pradesh. These elections occurred after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and although Congress won 400 plus seats with a sympathy wave, it failed to secure more than 6 seats in Andhra Pradesh, where the TDP got 31 seats. On November 22, 1984, NTR dissolved the assembly, conducted elections, and achieved a landslide victory, becoming the chief minister for the second term.

In 1989, the Telugu Desam Party lost power, and in 1994, NTR became the chief minister for the third term with a landslide TDP victory. However, just ten months later, he lost that position. This time, his son-in-law Chandrababu Naidu rebelled, pulling MLAs from the party, leading a revolt, and finally replacing NTR as the chief minister. Naidu held the CM position for three terms in 1995, 1999 in combined Andhra Pradesh, and from 2014 to 2019 in the separate state of Andhra. Now, at the age of 73, Naidu is aiming for a fourth term as CM.

Also Read: Chronicles of DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) – A Historical Exploration

Emergence of major regional parties between 2001 and 2014

In the combined Andhra Pradesh, from 2001 to 2014, four regional parties were established. In 2001, the ‘Telangana Rashtra Samithi’ current ‘Bharath Rashtra Samithi’ was founded under the leadership of Kalvakuntla Chandrasekhar Rao, who belongs to the Velama community, with the cause of a separate Telangana state.

In 2008, actor Chiranjeevi, who belongs to the Kapu community, established his own party ‘Praja Rajyam’ with the slogan of ‘social justice.’ In 2012, the ‘Yuvajana Shramika Rythu Party’ under the leadership of the late former CM YS Rajasekhar Reddy’s son, YS Jaganmohan Reddy, was set up. In 2014, actor Pawan Kalyan, brother of Chiranjeevi, established his own party, Janasena, just ahead of the state bifurcation.

Among these, BRS and YSRCP were the only two parties that emerged as powerful parties, as BRS captured power in Telangana and YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh. With the state bifurcation, BRS under the leadership of KCR gained power for two terms, in 2014 and 2019, and now in 2023, it’s Congress’s turn. The power shuffled from Reddy leadership to Velama, vice versa after the separate Telangana state formation.”

Emergence of YSRCP and Jagan as CM

After the emergence of the Telugu Desam Party from 1983 to 2014, the party gained power in 1983, 1985, 1994, and 1999, while the Congress secured power in 1989, 2004, and 2009. In the combined Andhra Pradesh during 2004 and 2009, YS Rajasekhar Reddy served as the Chief Minister for two terms. Unfortunately, just a few months after coming into power for second time, YSR died in a helicopter crash.

Following this tragic incident, Jagan, who was then the Kadapa Congress MP and the son of YS Rajasekhar Reddy, initiated the ‘Odarpu Yatra’ program to console families who had lost their members to heart attacks or suicide due to the shock of YSR’s death.

The Congress party opposed YS Jagan’s initiative, but he defied the Congress high command and subsequently left the party to establish his own party, YSRCP, in 2012. In the 2014 assembly elections, YSRCP secured 67 seats, and Jagan Mohan Reddy served as the leader of the opposition.

In the 2019 elections, YSRCP achieved a significant majority with 151 seats, leading Jagan Mohan Reddy to become the Chief Minister of the state. Following the state bifurcation, both the TDP and YSRCP lost their presence in Telangana and were confined to Andhra Pradesh only.

The picture is clear: Caste is still big in Andhra Politics

After the Kammas and the Reddys, the Kapus are the dominant community in Andhra Pradesh. When actor Chiranjeevi established the Praja Rajyam party in 2008 with the slogan of social justice, raised hopes among the Kapus about capturing power. However, Chiranjeevi faced a miserable failure in politics and eventually returned to the film industry. In the 2009 elections, the PRP managed to secure only 18 seats, with Chiranjeevi winning from Tirupati but losing in Palakollu. Just three years after the party’s formation, Chiranjeevi merged the PRP into the Congress party in 2011.

Following Chiranjeevi, his brother Pawan Kalyan founded his own party, Janasena, in 2014. However, he has not achieved anything significant, facing defeat in two seats contested in the 2019 elections. TDP and Janasena have now decided to form an alliance to counter the YSRCP, its like uniting Kamma and Kapu leadership against the Reddy leadership. On the other side, retired IPS officer and Kapu leader VV Laxminarayana established his own political party, Jai Bharath Party.

It is now confirmed that YS Sharmila is also entering the political landscape of Andhra Pradesh with the Congress party. Sharmila, from the Reddy community, is married to a Brahmin who converted to Christianity after their marriage. He is in the profession of an evangelist since 1998. Now The Andhra Pradesh political landscape is becoming clearer: on one side, there is Jagan Mohan Reddy, and on the other side, Naidu, Pawan Kalyan, and Sharmila. Let’s wait and see how the political scenario in Andhra Pradesh unfolds in 2024.

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