Religion, caste and success stories in Telangana manifestoes

On the caste front, while the BJP promised a Chief Minister from the BC community, Congress promised a caste census and proportionate reservations

November 23, 2023 09:03 pm | Updated November 24, 2023 11:36 am IST

People participate in an election rally at Bhattapur village in Nizamabad district of Telangana.

People participate in an election rally at Bhattapur village in Nizamabad district of Telangana. | Photo Credit: NAGARA GOPAL

In an election season where sops are the key in Telangana for Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and Indian National Congress (INC), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has added an ingredient of religion.

In its manifesto, the party has promised: removal of religion-based reservations, deportation of Rohingyas and other illegal immigrants, action against cow slaughter, and Razakars Horrors Remembrance Day, beside a host of other steps.

On the caste front, BJP promised a Chief Minister from the BC community, Special BC Development Fund, and fast-track filling up of vacancies of SCs and STs. Prior to this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised re-categorisation of Scheduled Castes. It has been an issue that is hanging fire for more than three decades with Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS) leader Manda Krishna Madiga fighting for it on all available forums. The MRPS says that most benefits of the 22% SC quota have eluded Madigas, who form the larger caste group in the category and require a sub-division to help them.

But the first to be off the block on the caste front has been the Congress, which has promised a caste census and proportionate reservations. Unveiling the declaration, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah promised a change within six months of assuming power in the State.

One of the promises that TRS was not able to keep was to appoint a Dalit Chief Minister. However, the BRS government has rolled out a number of schemes aimed at specific communities or castes. Out of the 104 achievements listed by BRS as part of their election campaign, only 11 can be linked to caste, community or religion. That is less than 10% of the achievements focused on caste. Under the Kalyana Lakshmi/Shaadi Mubarak scheme, 2.4 lakh SC, 1.5 lakh ST and 2.4 lakh minority brides benefited. Interestingly, BCs are the biggest beneficiaries of the Kalyana Lakshmi scheme with 5.9 lakh brides getting ₹51,000 till January 30 of this year.

How these three perspectives on caste will help shape the voter mindset will be the key. The BJP’s goal seems to be crafting a caste realignment with the promise of re-categorisation. On the other hand, the Congress is trying to woo BCs with a package aimed at the largest caste-based vote bank.

While the exact numbers are a guess, according to G. Kiran Kumar, a researcher on caste in the University of Hyderabad, Madigas constitute 65% of SC population. “Rajaiah was made the Deputy Chief Minister but was sidelined. There has been nobody identifiable as Madiga in Telangana ruling dispensation,” he said.

“The rollout of Dalit Bandhu scheme too has triggered heartburn among Dalits who did not get it, and OBCs who feel they have been short-changed. To be fair, there is a BC Bandhu scheme. But the budget is ₹100 crore and each beneficiary gets ₹1 lakh as against ₹10 lakh under the Bandhu scheme,” he said.

The BJP has brought in the tropes of Uniform Civil Code, de-radicalisation camps and ‘’control increasing cases of targeted grooming by creating robust mechanisms at community level...The perpetrators of grooming will be meted out (sic) with severe punishment.”

While the Congress has promised a caste census, the State government has access to granular data on caste that was collected as part of the Samagra Kutumba Survey or Intensive Household Survey done on August 19, 2014. The data collected on that day included religion, category and caste. It provides sub-caste wise details of SC, ST, BCs as well as minorities.

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