( Ashok Tankasala)
It is normally thought by social scientists and pollsters that the
poor take a generally common stand on voting in an election. But a field level study of rural and urban areas in both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana during recent general elections gives a different impression, which is not only interesting but is quite instructive.
After extensively interacting with poor women and men, in villages and towns, who distinctly happen to be ‘beneficiaries’ of various welfare schemes implemented by the governments of these two states, it is found by this Reporter that, despite some commonalities in approaches influenced by general poverty, they differ on finer points depending on their respective locations and location- specific economic conditions.
Let us explain it. In Andhra villages the poor women and men whole-heartedly welcome different kinds of welfare benefits offered by the Chandrababu administration. When these beneficiaries happen to be from Scheduled Caste groupings their loyalty levels towards their benefactor happen to be highest. This is because this section of people do seasonal labour work, no means of other works during non-seasonal days and no other means of production of their own either. These conditions force them to depend a great deal on official doles. consequent are the levels of loyalty towards the benefactor.
In contrast to this the non-SC poor people have a few more options of incomes for non-seasonal months. The Governmental schemes are certainly welcomed by them but loyalty levels depend on whether they too are on par with SCs on poverty count, or are having a little bit of land or some small business, or a son is doing some petty job in nearby town.
In this kind of instances the SC beneficiaries dont put any cross
questions or express doubts about any of the welfare schemes,
including cash dole outs. Whereas non-SC beneficiaries, depending on the levels of their possessing other means of incomes, behave somewhat differently.
Not being content with what they get they become a sort of aspirational. Raise doubts and queries, compare what they are getting with what the rivals of the present ruling party is offering, demand to know why some such schemes were announced just before the polls and even comment non-challantly no ruler is paying from his pocket.
The intensity of these feelings appear to determine the voting
preferences of SCs and non- SCs in rural Andhra. It is not poverty
alone. There are obviously wheels within the wheels of poverty.
The thinking of urban poor mostly reflects that of rural non-SC
communities. With more intensity. Curiously even urban SCs tend to think like urban non-SC poor.
Thus they differ from their rural SC sisters and brothers. This is because, unlike rural SCs the urban SCs do not suffer from what may be termed ‘work-drought’ or ‘no-work-season’. They find some work or the other through out.
Thus govt schemes are certainly welcome but dependence levels on them ‘for survival’ is much reduced compared to rural conditions. So overall incomes are higher than those of rural poor. Even payment rates are higher.
All this gives them financial cushion which, coupled with urban exposure to all sorts of ideas and arguments, affords some independence in defining governmental schemes, both existing ones and newly offered ones by the authority as well as the opposition.
Thus the urban economic opportunities and exposures become a great leveler
As a result one can notice that whereas rural poor with less
alternatives and exposures remain more loyal to Chandrababu the urban poor with more opportunities and more exposures are less so. This situation in not so insignificant cases is encouraging these urban poor to even defy caste-bondages/ dictats than in rural areas.
(Ashok Tankasala is a veteran journalist from Telangana. Earlier he was editor of Vaartha and associate editor of Hyderabad based Hans India.)