Former MP who led protests for Kapu reservations in Andhra, withdraws agitation
Padmanabham, also a former minister and four-time MLA from East Godavari district, had been in the forefront of the agitations, including the one that turned violent at Tuni in January 2016, in which Kapu protesters set fire to Visakhapatnam-bound Ratnachal Express.Updated: Jul 13, 2020 16:56 IST
In a big setback to the politically-strong Kapu community in Andhra Pradesh, former MP Mudragada Padmanabham, who had been leading agitations for the last two decades demanding reservations for the community under Other Backward Classes (OBC) category, announced that he was withdrawing the agitation.
The demand for provision of reservations for Kapus in education and employment under the OBC quota, on the lines of Jats in north India rocked Andhra Pradesh before and after the last assembly elections.
Padmanabham, also a former minister and four-time MLA from East Godavari district, had been in the forefront of the agitations, including the one that turned violent at Tuni in January 2016, in which Kapu protesters set fire to Visakhapatnam-bound Ratnachal Express.
In a statement on Monday, Padmanabham said he was withdrawing the agitation for Kapu quota as he was deeply hurt following a campaign against him by some community leaders through social and mainstream media.
He was referring to the allegations that he had made big money during the agitations taken up during the Telugu Desam Party regime and had become silent after the TDP lost power in 2019.
“I don’t know why they are making wild allegations. Are they under the impression that I have not given them a share in the money which I had allegedly received from industrialists and businessmen during the movement for Kapu reservations?” he asked.
Padmanabham clarified that he had taken up the cause of the Kapus only because the previous Telugu Desam Party government led by former chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had gone back on its promise to include Kapus in the OBC list and give them reservations in education and employment.
He clarified that he had never aspired for posts and positions or made big money through the Kapu agitation. “On the other hand, I have lost heavily both in terms of money and health. I always strived to uplift the Kapus,” he said.
The former MP said though there were attempts by other Kapu leaders to hijack his movement, he had never felt bad about it. “I always welcomed the attempts of any leader who strived for Kapu quota. I never wanted the entire credit to myself,” he said.
Kapus and their sub-castes of Balijas, Telagas and Ontaris, form a politically strong community in Andhra, constituting 15.2 per cent of the total population in the state. While they are spread all over the state, they are predominant in East and West Godavari districts which are considered as the Kapu belt.
The Kapu community got politically polarized to some extent during 2009 elections when popular Telugu film hero K Chiranjeevi, who hails from the community, launched Praja Rajyam Party (PRP).
The party, however, polled just around 17 per cent of the votes and won only 18 out of 294 assembly seats in the combined Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, Chiranjeevi merged the PRP with the Congress.
His brother Pawan Kalyan launched a separate political party Jana Sena in 2014, but his party did not contest the elections held for a divided Andhra Pradesh. Instead, he supported the TDP-BJP combine.
However, in 2019 assembly elections, Jana Sena fought the elections independently and it was presumed that Pawan Kalyan would split the Kapu community votes to a large extent. But they voted largely in favour of YSR Congress party, which was evident from the way the party won 27 out of 34 seats in East and West Godavari districts.
On the other hand, Jana Sena won just one assembly seat and less than 7 per cent votes. Pawan himself lost in both the assembly seats – Bhimavaram and Gajuwaka, which have considerable Kapu votes.
After Jagan came to power, he ignored the Kapu quota demand. Instead, he recently launched YSR Kapu Nestham programme seeking to provide financial assistance to the economically weaker Kapus.