Are the Kapus of Andhra Pradesh in for a second time disappointment in their quest for political power?
The first time they made a serious bid for it was in 2008 when Konidela Chiranjeevi, the popular Telugu film hero hailing from that community started a political party named Praja Rajyam’.
When the attempt failed to achieve the stated goal and the party eventually merged with the Congress party in 2011, the
community became subdued.
Seven years thence Pawan Kalyan, younger brother of Chiranjeevi, aroused another round of hopes among the power-thirsty Kapus even as he announced his own party, Jana Sena.
His party contested the current 2019 elections with much elan but, alas, even before the polling day came on the enthusiasm had dissipated among his caste brethren.
Reasons for this are many.
The Kapus, mainly a farming community concentrated in South Coastal Andhra come third in rank, after Reddys and Kammas, in financial, political and social clout.
But they happen to be distant third. The Reddys and Kammas, though numerically are in single digit per centages only, in addition to their other strengths have also been able to cobble up different other castes and religious groups for decades enabling them to capture power.
This the Kapus never succeeded in achieving, thus remaining virtually isolated,socially and geographically as well.
Before Chiranjeevi Mudragada Padmanabham happened to be a veritable Kapu leader but he never gave the impression of having a cross-community vision.
He always remained a leader of his caste group only. Chiranjeevi was the first person to think on those lines. The beginnings he made were promising also. He kept his caste and regional identities deliberately aside.
Travelled the length and breadth of the then united Andhra Pradesh addressing huge gatherings comprising notably of different downtrodden communities. Displayed pictures of Phule and Ambedker among others on his banners.
Promised a ‘People’s Raj’, enthusing almost all sections of people. Prior to venturing on this exercise he held wide confabulations with intellectuals, writers, artists, feminists and other activists, creating high expectations. He got enough votes and seats but not enough to form a government.
Disappointed and having no nerve or future vision to carry on the
fight, he decided to join the Congress party. Initially, and also when his stock was high, the Kapus saw in Chiranjeevi their first hope for political power.
They belived that he could engineer away some communities from Congress and Telugu Desam fold to make up for their own numerical deficits and narrow social base thus building alliances necessary to win power.
With that great hope they flocked to him en masse and even made financial investment in that venture. failure of Chiranjeevi to sustain that momentum left them heart broken.
With this bitter experience in mind, the Kapus were initially skeptic of Pawan Kalyan. Nevertheless when he began to take up varied public issues from North Coastal Andhra to Rayalaseema thus attracting support cutting across castes and religions, it raised a flicker of hope among Kapu ranks.
The Kapu youth enamoured of his film glamour flocked to their hero as usual. As time passed, despite some criticism and certain shortcomings, the hope in the Kapu community was Pawan would certainly emerge a king-maker, even if not a king himself.
But, within no time, whatever may have happened, people, including Kapus, began to perceive him to be playing second-fiddle to the TDP led by Chandrababu Naidu.
That perception spread as the polling day approached causing second disappointment in the power quest of Kapus and splitting their votes between different parties moving away from Pawan Kalyan.
Thus the two episodes of Konidela brothers leave enough lessons for any future experimentations for political power by the much aspirant Kapu community.
(Ashok Tankasala is a senior journalist from Telugu states)