Backward Leader's Forward March

With the Kapu protest, Padmanabham has stoked an old fire and put the Andhra CM under pressure.

Published: 07th February 2016 10:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th February 2016 10:27 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD:As the Kapu Ikya Garjana (united Kapu movement) at Tuni, a coastal town of Andhra Pradesh, took a violent turn, many started describing the veteran politician Mudragada Padmanabham, who leads the movement, as the southern Hardik Patel. However, not many know that Padmanabham had created history in 1994 when Patel was a toddler, by leading a massive Kapu movement in the then united Andhra, demanding inclusion of Kapus in BC list. Now, with this act, he has certainly put Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu under pressure.

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During the 2014 elections, Naidu had promised to include the Kapus in Backward Class (BC) category, and many of the TDP leaders even acknowledge that the party was able to defeat the YSR Congress only after Kapus backed the yellow party. After delaying for several months, the TDP government last month appointed a judicial commission to look into the issue of inclusion of Kapus in BCs list. However, ruling TDP suspects the hand of YSRC behind the moves of Padmanabham, who has begun undertaking protests to fulfill the long-pending demand of the community.

Not many know that Padmanabham had created history in 1994 when Hardik Patel was a toddler, by leading a massive Kapu movement in the then united Andhra, demanding inclusion of Kapus in BC list. Considered as the patriarch of Kapus, a numerically dominant community in reorganised Andhra, Padmanabham is known for his impulsive decisions and ‘not-so-serious’ agitations. In October 2005, when YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the CM of Andhra, Padmanabham started a hunger strike, demanding compensation for farmers. He began fast from his residence along with his family with a gun and revolver by his side. At one point, he held the revolver to his temple and threatened to shoot himself. Amid high drama, on October 21, 2005, the fast was called off with an assurance from the government.

Last week, during the Kapu Ikya Garjana, the maverick leader gave a sudden call to his supporters to stage rasta roko and rail roko agitations till their demand is met. After keeping the state government on the tenterhooks for over five hours, this former MP, who was also a minister in NT Rama Rao’s Cabinet in 1994, called off the stir later, amid high drama. Later, he gave a fresh ultimatum to Naidu government, saying that if his demand was not met within 24 hours, he would go for indefinite fast. The next day, the political veteran again postponed his proposed fast.

Padmanabham, who had started his political career as a Janata Party MLA in 1978, shifted loyalties many a time in his four-decade political career. The four-time MLA and one-time MP holds the record of serving as minister in both TDP and Congress governments. He won both 1983 and 1985 polls on TDP nomination. After that, he resigned from his ministerial berth in 1994 and set up his own Telugu Nadu Party.

Losing as an MLA in 1994, he associated himself with Kapunadu, a movement for inclusion of Kapus in BCs, and later with the BJP. In 1999, he represented TDP in the Lok Sabha and lost in 2004 polls. After that, he joined the Congress and lost in 2009 from Pithapuram Assembly segment. He then shifted his loyalties to the YSRC, for a while. After Padmanabham’s political obscurity, Tollywood actor K Chiranjeevi, who also belongs to the same community, took political plunge and set up Praja Rajyam Party, eying the numerically dominant Kapus. But after his party merged the party with the Congress, Kapus once again began looking for a leader.

Exactly at this juncture, Kapus’ demand for BC status gained fresh momentum in the changed electoral scenario in Andhra as Kapus in the reorganised state have become crucial in deciding the electoral fortunes of any political party, post-bifurcation.


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