Amaravati: Can the power star Pawan Kalyan play a Mudragada Padmanabham in Andhra’s caste politics?
This intriguing question comes up for a debate in the face of the Kapu icon Mudragada Padmanabham’s voluntary exit from his caste movement. A few days before Mudragada’s announcement came, Pawan Kalyan, also the founder of Jana Sena Party (JSP) sought to be a champion of Kapu community. Digging into the history, Pawan said his Kapu community has been deprived of social justice by the two dominant ruling communities which he meant Kammas and Reddys.
The actor-turned leader aimed to highlight how Kapus were excluded from the Backward Classes by Neelam Sanjiva Reddy and Kasu Bramhananda Reddy during their periods as Chief Ministers. Pawan also obviously targeted Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy for his outright denial of the demand for the BC status for Kapus before the April elections in 2019. Besides, he also recalled how TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu made a quota promise to Kapus before the elections in 2014 and failed to realise it. Though he piloted a resolution in the state Assembly, proposing five percent quota for Kapus, it failed to get the approval of the NDA government at the Centre. Kapus constitute a dominant caste next to the BCs and the Scheduled Castes, playing decisive role in 30-40 Assembly segments in coastal region. It is the Kapu scare that forced the TDP’s Naidu to hand out a Deputy CM post and three cabinet berths to the community during his period.
In spite of his attempt to fix the `two-dominant castes’ for the plight of Kapus, Pawan’s attack was aimed more at Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Timings Pawan chose to speak
The actor upped the ante when Mudragada did beat a retreat. Pawan Kalyan has old feuds to settle with Jagan as Mudragada had with Chandrababu Naidu in the past. Mudragada led a militant quota movement at his native Kirlampudi village that ended up in arson at Tuni at East Godavari district in 2016 during the TDP regime. The Kapu iconic figure conspicuously remained silent even when Jaganmohan Reddy declined to deliver the quota promise during the electioneering in 2019. He has been targeted from his own community for his perceived soft-peddling on the Jaganmohan Reddy government.
Backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Pawan Kalyan now aimed to accomplish the unfinished task left by Mudragada by sharpening his knives against Jagan Reddy. The clash between Pawan and Jagan crossed decency when the YSR Congress leader at an election rally in the Kapu heart-belt of East Godavari district said that the actor was changing his wives like vehicles. The JSP leader began to train guns against Jagan after he came to power by playing caste card. Kalyan, who earlier refused to be identified with his caste, lambasted the YSRC government allegedly for throwing the baby– the Kapu Corporation, established during the TDP government—out with the bathwaters.
After Mudragada, Pawan and his brother Chiranjeevi emerged as caste icons in the Kapu community with their film charisma.
As a mega star, Chiranjeevi floated the Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) as a claimant for the CM post in 2009 by rallying his caste men behind him. Though his party won 18 Assembly seats with 17 percent vote share in that election, Chiranjeevi clubbed his party with the Congress to become Union Minister for Tourism in the UPA-II. Later, Pawan emerged as a separate political entity by establishing the Jana Sena Party before the elections in 2014. Kalyan played king maker by helping Chandrababu come to power with fringe votes from his community. He fell out with the Naidu’s party and aligned with the BJP before his JSP did a flop show in 2019 elections.
Bhogadi Venkatarayudu, an analyst on Kapu caste dynamics from East Godavari district, told this writer that Pawan Kalyan, given his lack of consistency, is unlikely to fill the void left by Padmanabham.