Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy virtually pulled off a socio-electoral coup by doing what none of his predecessors did: Keep the upper castes at bay and appoint people from weaker sections to the coveted posts of municipal chairperson and mayors.
It is a political masterstroke that may help the ruling YSR Congress to further consolidate its electoral base in the state.
The Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress Party (YSRCP), headed by Jagan Reddy, swept the recently held civic body elections in the state. By giving prominence to the weaker sections of the society, Reddy has experimented with the appointments of mayors, deputy mayors in the 11 municipal corporations and the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons for the 74 municipalities. Of the total 86 posts, 67 were allotted to SCs, STs, BCs and even Muslims.
Earlier, upper castes, mainly from Kamma and Reddy communities, would have secured all the unreserved posts. But, this time, Jagan kept these two communities — which hardly make up 10 percent of the state’s population — at bay. Muslims, who constitute about 9 percent of the population, got a dozen posts. Backward class (BC), Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) too got more than what is reserved for them.
Political analysts say that Jagan Reddy is creating ground for the YSRCP to win the next assembly elections, which will be held after three years.
In perhaps the first ever social engineering exercise in the state, the YSRCP leadership appointed SCs, STs, BCs and minorities to the posts of chiefs in 78 percent civic bodies of the state. This is 28% more than the 50% reservations provided as per the Constitution. Also, Muslims got a dozen civic body chief posts, a politico-electoral feat which the principal minority community had never dreamt of in the history of Andhra politics.
In seats like Vijayawada, Machilipatnam and Tirupati, women from backward communities were made mayors instead of women from the general category. For example, Anantapur was reserved for the general category, but Wasim from the Muslim community was made the mayor.
Women got 60.46 percent positions in urban bodies, which is also unprecedented. This means that 52 out of 86 posts are now held by women. In fact, the state has more women mayors than men. Women are the first citizens of seven cities including Vijayawada, Visakhapatnam and Tirupati.
A YSR Congress leader claimed, “YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has changed the nomenclature from Chairman to Chairperson.”
During Chandrababu Naidu’s regime (2014 – 19), Muslims got a raw deal in the state, which the community attributes to TDP’s alliance with the BJP. There was no minister or MLA from the community. Also, except for West Godavari zilla parishad and half term in Guntur zilla parishad, there was no representation for Muslims in the state.
“However, merely elevating persons from the community to higher posts does not satisfy the people. You need to address their issues. Political empowerment comes from representation in legislative bodies but not local ones,” said Khadar Mohiuddeen, a Muslim intellectual from Andhra Pradesh.
In many urban local bodies, people who were made mayor, deputy mayor and chairpersons have come from poor and below middle class backgrounds.
S Amuda, elected mayor of Chittoor, was a firewood trader. Shaik Fayaz Basha, a vegetable vendor, became municipal chairman in Rayachoti in Kadapa district.
S Ramakrishna Reddy, advisor to the government, said, “The CM believes in empowering the weaker sections of the society, which are in a majority in terms of population but are economically backward because of the raw deal meted out to them by successive governments. Jagan Reddy has created history.”
The opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP), however, was not convinced. TDP state president K Atchennaidu said, “Jagan gave 742 nominated posts to people from his own community. Having kept his caste people in important positions in the government, he is trying to gain political mileage by giving the civic bodies to weaker sections. We have seen how the deputy chief ministers have been rendered toothless.”
TDP too picks up ‘tickets for hard workers only’ mantra
Around the same time, the opposition, Telugu Desam Party, has also come up with a firm decision to give tickets to “hardworking leaders” in all elections hereafter. Party president N Chandrababu Naidu had made it clear at a meeting of the party leaders on Thursday (March 18) that mere loyalty to the high command and the caste and social equations would not be the criteria for positions in future. He set up a five-member committee to work out the modalities for selection of candidates for the next elections.