Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao is all geared up to woo the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) including the most backward classes (MBCs) who haven’t got any political representation in the last six decades in the state. The move aims at battling any anti-incumbency that may hamper the prospects of his Telangana Rashtra Samithi.
Although KCR has been working to keep up the state’s 11% GDP growth rate in the next two years, he is afraid that the dominant forward castes, the Reddys, may still rally behind the principal opposition, Congress. This has led him to woo the OBCs/MBCs in order to counter-balance the rise of the Congress.
KCR has announced close to Rs 10,000 crore for different castes that come under the purview of OBCs in the name of rural development. He has set up an MBC corporation on the lines of the one in Uttar Pradesh since the 1990s, besides stepping up budgetary allocations to other BCs, from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 9,000 crore in 2017-2018.
The CM has announced separate allocations to different vocational and productive castes among the OBCs. Yadavs, Padmasalis (weavers), Nayi Brahmins (barbers), Rajaks (washer men) and Kummaris (potters) are the primary beneficiaries.
He has also created a separate bloc in the social welfare plank by creating a corporation for MBCs with an initial corpus fund of Rs 1,000 crore in this financial year.
Most of the MBCs have no traditional vocation or considerable skills. There are some MBCs who constantly move from one place to another but are not included in nomadic groups which enjoy greater state protection. For example, potters and washermen are the worst hit by crippled rural economy and have lost their livelihood over the years.
KCR called the leaders of these most neglected OBCs to his official residence, Pragathi Bhavan in Begumpet last month and asked them to come up with ideas to help these castes and promised to give them political representation in the Legislative Council.
For the first time, scores of castes from OBCs have gathered in all 31 district headquarters in Telangana and thanked KCR for enhanced allocations to them in the Rs 1,49,646 crore budget for the next year.
“KCR is alike another Mahatma Phule (OBC icon) to us in Telangana,” Telangana BC Commission member Juluri Gowri Shankar told The Sunday Guardian.
Another OBC minister in KCR’s Cabinet, T. Padma Rao told this newspaper that though the sops to these castes appear to be a move at winning their support, the measures would trigger economic development.
“Around 4 lakh Yadav families who would be given 75% subsidy to rear goats and sheep would be earning a monthly income of Rs 15,000 in two years,” said the minister.
Similarly, Are Katikas (butchers), who run meat shops, would be richer by Rs 12,000 per month as the government would give loans to set up their shops in urban areas and cooperative units to export meat to the Gulf countries, said the minister. Currently, 75% of sheep and goats are imported from Maharashtra and Karnataka to meet meat needs of Telangana.
Mudirajs (fishermen), who depend on fresh water bodies to raise fish, are being given rights over tanks, lakes and all major reservoirs in the state so that their catch would grow manifold.
For handloom weavers, the government has not only provided a support of Rs 1,200 crore, but also promised to market their product through government channels.
Not only that a majority of Congress MLAs and MLCs from non-reserved seats as well as local bodies leaders are from the forward community, the emergence of Kodandaram, convener of Telangana political parties’ joint action committee as a potential to the ruling party too belongs to the Reddy community. Sensing trouble from this dominant community in rural Telangana, KCR is in a hurry to win back the OBCs.
KCR is also actively wooing other minor non-BCs like Brahmins and Muslims.
He has set up a separate corporation for Brahims with an outlay of Rs 100 crore. He has also set up 75 residential schools and colleges for Muslims in this financial year.
In a scheme, Shadi Mubarak, every poor Muslim bride would get a government gift of Rs 75,116 for her marriage, up from Rs 51,000.
“Caste may be an anathema to many and wooing people on caste lines may sound uncivilised, but it is essential in today’s politics to ensure justice to them in view of their prolonged neglect,” said R. Krishnaiah, prominent OBC leader and LB Nagar MLA who won on a TDP ticket in 2014, but who has now cut off his links with the party.