Kapu reservation is Chandrababu Naidu’s masterstroke

Amaravati, Dec 3:  By passing a legislation to provide Kapus 5 percent reservation, Andhra Pradesh has joined the growing list of states, where the quota has exceeded 50 percent, the upper cap fixed by the Supreme Court.

With the overall quota in the state now going up to 55 percent, Andhra Pradesh will have to request the Centre to bring a constitutional amendment to include the Kapu reservation legislation in the 9th Scheduled so that it can’t be challenged in the court.

Meeting a long-pending demand of Kapus, the state assembly on Saturday passed a bill, providing 5 percent reservation to the community in education and government jobs.

Political observers see this as a masterstroke by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu. By fulfilling the promise made in 2014 elections, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief has tried to kill many birds with one stone.

Proving once again that he is a shrewd politician, Naidu tabled and passed the bill when YSR Congress Party, the only opposition party was not present in the legislature. YSRCP is boycotting the current session to lodge its protest over the speaker not acting on its petition to disqualify its MLAs who crossed over the TDP since 2014.

Another reason for YSRCP staying away from the legislature is the ongoing state-wide padyatra by the party president Y. S. Jaganmohan Reddy. Interestingly, one of the issues being raised by the leader of opposition to target TDP was its failure to fulfill promise of reservation for Kapus.

By passing the bill in the absence of YSRCP, TDP has tried to project the opposition party as a ‘villain’ in the eyes of Kapus. It has given an impression that YSRCP is not sincere on the important issue.

As Kapu leader and former minister Mudragada Padmanabham had been agitating over the issue since early this year, Naidu has silenced him by acting swiftly to pass the bill, only a day after the state cabinet accepted the recommendations of Manjunath Committee and decided to include Kapus in the backward classes.

Labour minister K. Atchan Naidu tabled the bill in the assembly, providing Kapus 5 percent quota under separate category BC ‘F’. Naidu and other TDP leaders participated in the bill, which was passed unanimously with a voice vote.

Mudragada had emerged as a strong opponent to TDP as he had repeatedly defied police ban to launch indefinite fast or take out rallies in Kirlampudi in East Godavari. His Kapu Sangham had launched the protest in January this year when some protestors in Tuni went on rampage, torching a train, two police stations and several vehicles.

The Kapu leader had been accusing the TDP of going back on its promise to provide quota.

With Pawan Kalyan also coming from Kapu community, the TDP was worried that Jan Sena could queer the pitch for it in the run up to the 2019 elections. Naidu also deprived him of an opportunity to take credit by putting pressure on the government like he did on few other issues.

Kapu was the only community which was seen distancing itself from TDP for its failure to honour the promise. With elections only a year away, the ruling party did not take any chance and provided the reservation.

Participating in the debate on the bill in assembly, Chandrababu Naidu vowed to provide equal opportunities to all sections of the society. He assured Kapus that they will get their due share in all welfare and development schemes.

The TDP also assured the BCs that the inclusion of Kapus will not affect their interests. However, this did not pacify TDP’s Telangana MLA R. Krishnaiah, who has threatened to resign from the party.

The TDP, however, is ready to pay this small price for weaning Kapus away from Jagan, Mudragada and Pawan Kalyan. The party hopes to reap rich dividends in the next elections.

The state government had last year constituted Manjunatha Committee, which studied the socio-economic conditions of Kapus across the state and recommended 4 to 5 percent reservation for them.

As this legislation will take the overall quantum of reservation in the state to over 50 per cent, the cap fixed by the Supreme Court, Deputy Chief Minister N. Chinnarajappa said they will request the Centre to amend the Constitution and include the legislation in Scheduled IX of the Constitution to insulate it from any court ruling.

The existing reservation for various castes is 50 per cent. It is 25 per cent for backward classes, 15 per cent for Scheduled Castes, six per cent for Scheduled Tribes and four per cent for minorities.

With Kapu reservation, Andhra has followed Telangana in crossing 50 percent limit and urging the Centre to include it in the Scheduled IX of the Constitution.

In April, Telangana increased reservation for Muslims from 4 percent to 12 percent and for scheduled tribes from 6 to 10 percent. The state legislature passed two separate bills in this regard and sent them for President’s assent.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao told the assembly last month that he has taken up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He threatened to approach court if the Centre refuses to include the bills in Scheduled IX of the Constitution.

It remains to be seen how Chandrababu Naidu takes up the issue with the Centre.

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