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BSP and Caste Politics

This piece was published by the author in one of the volumes of the Economic and Political Weekly


The entry of Bahujan Samaj Party into  

the political scenario in

Andhra Pradesh has to be viewed

against the recent resurgence of

backward castes in areas like

northern Telengana and the consistent

involvement of Marxist parties and groups

in this movement.  The other factor is the Telugu Desam Party 's

long-nurtured stronghold

among the backward castes,  generally resorted to on the sly, never in a

politically explicit manner. What has been

underneath so far in dominant politics, the

UP experimentation has brought to the centre

of political discourse and made it a legitimate

political agenda.

After its initial innings in UP, the caste

spectre has traversed and descended on the

AP political landscape. Given the historical

background of anti-brahmin caste articulation

during the freedom movement through which

the shudra peasant castes like Kamma and

Reddy emerged as the dominant communities

in AP economy and  p o l i t i c s and, the

emergence and development of the dalit

movement against this dominant caste


A  C A R T O O N in a local daily showing N

T Rama Rap, the Telugu Desam supremo,

and K Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy, the Congress

chief minister of Andhra Pradesh as  t w o

wrestlers measuring each other's strength

yet to be locked in action, captures the

political mood in the state. The comparison

between wrestling and politics may not

seem too far-fetched since the description

of wrestling as a 'spectacle of excess' a

la Roland Barthes appropriately captures

the political scenario.

The  T D P had organised three 'melas' in

a row at Rajamundry, Nalgonda and Kurnool

of coastal  A n d h r a , Telengana and

Rayalaseema regions respectively during

October and November last year and Karshaka

Sadassu (Farmers convention) at Guntur on

January 26, obviously keeping in view the

assembly elections due to be held towards

the end of this year. The success of these

melas apparently demonstrated the crowd-

pulling ability of  N T R which also boosted

up the sagging enthusiasm of the  T D P cadre,

l i t e Congress (I) belatedly responded by

organising public meetings at Elyru, Suryapet

and  K u r n o o l in February and March. To

outdo the TDP, the Congress(I) government

announced a hike in the  O B C reservations

in the panchayat raj institutions from the

existing 25 per cent (which was introduced

by the  T D P government earlier) to 33 per

cent. The clue to the understanding of the

politipal process these melas likened  w i t h

'open air spectacles' symbolise lies not so

much in the apparently 'unreserved' emotion

they have generated as in the competition at

the 'appeasement' of the OBCs dictated solely

by the calculations of electoral arithmetic.

The factor that is undoubtedly critical in

the unfolding of political process in Andhra

Pradesh is the entry of Kanshi Ram. Kanshi

 enthusiasm and composition: i e, in the

preponderance of the rural youth, middle

class employed section and the party activists

from Telengana and coastal Andhra districts.

This has apparently sent the dominant political

parties and their leadership into jitters as

some sections of the press candidly reported.

What is more significant in the immediate

context is the arousal of BC and SC sections

of different parties from diffidence and

complacency. The organisation of rallies

by major backward communities focuses

the  q u e s t i o n  o f greater  p o l i t i c a l

representation to them in the forthcoming

elections and thereby demand substantial

share in political power. Though there is

not much to speculate as yet about the

electoral fortune of the BSP, its critical role

at this juncture in the polarisation of the

social base and especially the leadership

in the dominant parties that sets the terms

of political process in the coming months

is self-evident. By not including Kanshi

Ram in the comic political spectacle in the

cartoon referred to above it forces us to

visualise his subversive potential in the

state politics.




The spectre of caste unleashed by Kanshi

Ram has undoubtedly began a new phase in

the post-independent India's political history.

Central to this is the proposition that only

through the mobilisation of the dalit-bahujan

forces with an explicit objective of caste

annihilation it would be possible to contain

the fast-spreading Hindutva virus in the

country's political and  c i v i l society. Though

the erasure of the taboo that is usually attached

to paste in the elite public space .and

'untouchability' of caste in the dominant

 structure and the resurgence of political

aspiration among the backward castes during

the last decade, AP provides a unique case

of emergent caste  p o l a r i s a t i o n and


K a r a m c h e d u and  C h u n d u r are  t w o

important events in the history of dalit

movement in AP. Although upper caste

attacks on dalits are common, but these two

events stand out for their unprecedented

politicisation of the dalits in the recent past.

If one were to imagine them to be symptomatic

of pre-capitalist social relations (for in the

received paradigms of understanding caste

riots are taken to be characteristic of backward

feudal social milieu like Bihar), it must be

pointed out that these riots, pre-planned and

meticulously executed had occurred in the

advanced green revolution areas of coastal


In July 1985 Karamchedu a prosperous

tobacco growing village in Prakasham district

seven kilometres away from Chirala town

was the site of the massacre of six persons

and injury to many more, all belonging to

the untouchable caste of Madigas in the

hands of Kammas. In August 1991 it was

Chundur, an equally prosperous village in

Guntur district where nine Males were

murdered in a cold-blooded manner and their

bodies packed in gunny bags were thrown

into a nearby canal. In these two instances

the immediate issue that provoked such

brutality was not the traditional economic

demand for higher wages but their demand

to live  w i t h dignity and honour, and the

assertion of their right to be treated as social

equals. These carnages are testimony to the

fact that the formal liberal rights guaranteed

by the Constitution have not been translated

into reality but when trampled by the upper

caste men the state machinery and the


Ram entering into the state after the UP

 secular discourse is yet to begin, caste has         

; dominant political elite had shown their

 electoral success has breathed life into the

BSP organisation by attempting to rally the

dalit-bahujan forces,  t h e interest evoked in

the BSP was evident in the spontaneous

gathering of over one lakh people in the

public meeting at Hyderabad on January 23.

Its qualitative difference from the usual ruling

class party melas was visible both in the

 been brought to the centre-stage as "never

before and has become a legitimate paradigm

of subaltern political assertion. It is important

to note that caste has been a vehicle of the

political consolidation of the dominant caste/

glasses and an important means of the

mobilisation of the subalternsas 'vote banks'

for the elite politics but this mode had been


caste bias by  a c t i v e l y assisting  t h e


History is a witness to the fact that the

battles of the dominant classes were fought

by the foot-soldiers drawn from the subaltern

classes. But when caste is involved they

would not hesitate but find it safe to fight

their battles  w i t h the army drawn from their

 own castes  . In these two instances, the Kamma

and Reddy landlords closing ranks with their

caste fellows, provoking their caste allegiance

and mobilising them precisely on caste lines

had inflicted violence and unleashed terror

on the Madigas and Malas respectively. It

so happened that the CPI leaders of Prakasham

district, who happened to be Kamma by

caste, though it is not a coincidence as

communist leadership in this part comes

predominantly from this caste, visiting

Karamchedu after the carnage referred to the

rioters as "landlords' using the usual Marxist

category, which was met with protest and

indignation on the part of dalits since it

overlooked the caste identity. It did not require

much of dialectical imagination for the dalits

to realise the caste specificity of the rioting.

The Dalit Mahasabha, an organisation

formed in the coastal districts in response to

Karamchedu is a decade old today. In spite

of its chequered history and leadership

squabbles, the Dalit Mahasabha has done a

fairly commendable  j o b in building what can

properly be called the dalit movement. Its

most important contribution lies in the

political polarisation of and the resultant

heightened awareness among the dalit castes

in coastal Andhra. Here, the dalits had

traditionally constituted the support base of

the Congress because of historical reasons

and the populist policies and patronage

politics of Indira Gandhi.The Chundur event

involving the Congress supporting-Reddys

and occurring during the present Congress

regime had dispelled any illusions among the

dalits about the character of the Congress

Party and government.  W i t h Chundur the

dalit movement in fact had entered a new

phase by  i n f u s i n g  h i t h e r t o  u n k n o w n

confidence among the dalits and forging a

possibility of new political identity. This is

evident in the fact that while in 1985 the

dalits of Karamchedu who left the village

after the carnage showed reluctance to return

to their homes (instead preferred to stay back

at Chirala), in 1991 the dalits of Chundur

not only went back but built a memorial for

their martyrs and ever since have been

struggling for their rights in the village. Thus

Karamchedu and Chundur have become two

important milestones in the emergence,

development and transformation of the dalit


In Telengana the articulation of the dalit

question took a qualitatively different form.

It differed from coastal districts, both in

terms of socio-economic specificity and

politico-ideological contours. Here the

agrarian struggles and left student movement

during the last two decades have successfully

radicalised the dalits, especially their youth,

and thereby marked their disenchantment

with the dominant discourse and political

formations. As a part of the anti-feudal

struggle the  C P I ( M L ) groups have taken up

the questions of vetti' (forced labour) and


untouchability along with land and wage

question and thereby organised the most

oppressed of the rural poor, i e, the dalits,

Of late, the  C P I ( M L ) movement has been

criticised by dalit leadership as 'militant

economism' for not articulating the dalit

question the way they wanted it to be.

However it is important to note that the dalit

assertion being witnessed today, especially

in the northern Telengana districts, would

have been unimaginable  w i t h o u t the

background of the  C P I ( M L ) movement

The emergence of Ambedkarite organisa-

tions and the rapid spread of the network of

dalit organisations like Dalit Kala Mandali

and Dalit Writers, Artists and Intellectuals

United Forum  ( D W A I U F ) in the post-

Chundur period marked the beginning of a

perceptible change in the socio-cultural milieu

and played a catalytic role in the politicisation

of the rural dalit intelligentsia in Telengana

districts. These organisations have been

instrumental in spreading the anti-caste

message of Ambedkar through song, story

and speech in the northern Telengana districts

of Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Warangal.

They had been working till recently as non-

party cultural and social groups, but at the

moment seem to be gravitating towards the


The  D W A I U F , launched in the post-

Chundur period as a dalit writers forum with

the initiative of a group which came out of

the revolutionary writers movement, is a

unique attempt, therefore deserves attention.

Claiming itself, with an uninhibited frankness,

to be the result of the failure of the

revolutionary writers' movement to articulate

the caste question as the historical specificity

of Indian society (and therefore as a central

strategic question for Indian revolution) it

took upon itself the task of creating poets,

writers and artists from the dalit-bahujans

who are necessary to carry forward the project

of caste annihilation by building an anti-

caste cultural and ideological movement.

The  D W A I U F regularly conducts workshops

at mandal headquarters for the dalit young

men and women to identify their inclinations

and talents, and to train them to realise their

potentialities. The theory and practice of this

organisation is so novel that it Would not be

an exaggeration to suggest that the movement

it has been building has not only transcended

the traditional elitist confines of the left

writers' movement but more significantly,

given the ground reality promises to usher

in an unprecedented upsurge of subaltern

literary and cultural creativity,

In ideological terms the discourses

conducted in these workshops in northern

Telengana districts mark a decisive de-

parture from the traditional Ambedkarite

dispensation of dalit articulation of the coastal

region and its confinement to the question

of reservation and share in political power

and display a rare intellectual sensitivity to


the larger questions of political economy and

a political urgency to theoretically renegotiate

the specificity of caste question within the

Marxist discourse.



Against this backdrop the emergence of

the Bahujan Samaj Party in the state politics

has to be appreciated. Though the BSP has

made a dent in the state a few years back

by unsuccessfully contesting the last assembly

elections, the immediate context of the Uttar

Pradesh elections and the ascendancy of the

BSP to the corridors of political power has

aroused political excitement and ambition

among the dalit political activists. The visit

of Kanshi Ram to AP and his efforts to bring

together the publicly visible dalit leaders Hke

Kathi Padma Rao and K G Satyamurthi, etc,

working in different organisations around

the BSP marked a decisive turn. The public

rallies held in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam

and Nalgonda in the months of January and

February, though apparently meant to gauge

the public mood, turned out to be perceptible


In spite of the favourable ground situation

in the state consequent upon the general

disenchantment  w i t h the politics and style

of functioning of the Congress(I) and the.

T D P and the euphoria generated by the dalit-

bahujan experimentation in UP, the BSP has

serious  l i m i t a t i o n s  i n terms  o f its

o r g a n i s a t i o n a l structure, leadership

projection, caste and region specific identity

and more significantly in terms of its ideo-

logical specificity that ought to distinguish

it from the dominant political parties.

The organisational network of the BSP

resembles the centralised command structure

of the Congress(I) Party. Thus in the popular

understanding the BSP means Kanshi Ram

and vice versa. This has given scope for the

vernacular press,  w h i c h has generally

accorded a hostile reception to the BSP, to

harp on the point of view that it is an outsider's

party and hence rootless. This viewpoint

seems to have gained credence because of

the absence of projected state leaders in sharp

contrast to the skirmishes and ideological

differences among  t h e m  w h i c h was

d e l i b e r a t e l y  g i v e n  d i s p r o p o r t i o n a t e

propaganda by the local-press. '

In addition, the fact that the state leadership

is predominantly drawn from coastal Andhra

that too from Malas to the neglect of another

major dalit caste  of . M a d i g a s and the

conspicuous absence of OBCs may pose an

organisational hurdle in future. It is necessary

to point out that the regional unevenness

(between backward Telengana and rich

coastal Andhra) in the state is not merely a

historical fact that led to a violent political

movement in the late 1960s for a separate

Telengana state but it has been of continued

political relevance in the subsequent period

 as well. The logic of regional unevenness

pervades through and informs not merely

the elite formation of rating classes and

dominant castes but also the dalit-bahujan

intellectual elaboration as well. The dalits of

coastal districts who have been through the

Adi-Andhra, Christian missionary reform,

rationalist and the nationalist movements are

ahead of the dalits of Telengana by a

generation. This relativeadvanceis not merely

region-specific but caste-specific as well.

Within the coastal districts compared to the

Madigas it is the Malas who have benefited

From the educational avenues created by the

missionaries earlier and from the reservation

policy and also from the ruling class politics

of patronage and  c o - o p t i o n after

independence, hence the visibility of coastal

Mala elite in politics, bureaucracy and

academia. However, it would be absurd even

to suggest that they have got their due share.

But it would be politically instructive to note

that the conspicuous presence of coastal

Andhra Malas in the BSP leadership in

contrast to the dalits of Telengana may cause

some uneasiness among the latter.

The major challenge before the BSP relates

to the question of electoral strategy,  t h e

image of the BSP as the 'party of SCs' is

systematically built and sustained by the

vernacular press and doubts are expressed

about its viability in electoral politics in the

absence of a 'Samajwadi Party' (the press

here as elsewhere understands it essentially

in caste terms as a 'party of the BCs'). A

section of the press had also predicted the

possibility of (read: necessity of) an electoral

understanding with the TOP in the absence

of the SP. But what is blatantly glossed over

is the fact that there is an upsurge in the

backward castes whose youth, especially in

the northern Telengana  d i s t r i c t s , are

gravitating towards the BSP. The challenge

before the BSP is to evolve a strategy to

effectively pull together and co-ordinate these

forces and consolidate its constituency.

Whether the BSP would be able to overcome

the numerous hurdles and achieve what at

present seems to be difficult is not a question

of speculation but of concrete practice.

But what is undeniably crucial is the

importance of the Kanshi Ram factor to the

understanding of the political spectacle in

AP, thus far enacted by the Congress(I) and

the TDP. At the moment, they seem to be

attempting to woo the bahujans whose support

is critical to either party especially in the

context of continued exodus of dalits towards

the BSP which has more or less become

synonymous to their interests and aspirations,




IN I Kama Rao is known outside AP more

for his dramatics than for his political wisdom,

Recollect how dramatic was the launching

of the Telugu Desam party in 1982 and


equally dramatic was its victory within a

year. Recollect how often and how many

tunes he assumed new 'avataars' and

correspondingly changed his attire each time

in the name of saving the 'besieged' Telugu

nation (but in reality only to boost up his

sagging popularity). The significant avataar

in this series was that of 'Raja rishi'—to

which a person belonging to a shudra peasant

caste but claiming the status of kshatriya is

entitled (attainment of brahmarishi status

according to the Hindu mythology is the

exclusive privilege of a brahmin). In spite

of the inanities from Hindu mythology and

their apparent absurdity to liberal sensibility,

NTR's gestures and actions, seen in the

historical context of caste movements in

general and particularly in relation to the

kamma caste movement led by Tripuraneni

Rama Swamy Choudhari, were symbolic

enough to capture the imagination of the

people with latent aspiration for an upward

m o b i l i t y .  T h e mainstream press  b y

highlighting these aspects only sought to

portray NTR and his style as a non-serious


Though NTR in his original version came

to power on the agenda of Telugu nationalism

defined as anti-Congressism and enacted all

those avataars; but once in power he played

intense politics or rather brought intensity

to politics. Motives apart, the consequence

of this was a rapid politicisation of different

social groups. It would be instructive to

examine some of the issues central to this


The Congress(I) Party, in spite of its

populist phraseology and much publicised

land reforms, has been dominated by the

Reddy caste elite from the landed classes and

continues to count them among its panchayat

raj and legislative representatives, party and

government functionaries in the state. The

mode of political mobilisation has been

predominantly based on the traditional vote

bank system which is a confirmation of feudal

dominance pattern. The subaltern politics to

some extent under the impact of the

developmental process and to a greater extent

due to the radical agrarian struggles acquired

anti-feudal sensibility especially in the

Telengana region. The incongruity of the

dominant practice with the subterraneous

radicalism of subaltern politics could not be

felt in the terrain of electoral politics; it may

be said post facto,           till the emergence  o f the

T D P , because of the abstinence of the anti-

feudal political formations from the electoral


N T R ' s style of politics, though marked

a decisive, break  w i t h i n the dominant

p o l i t i c a l  d i s c o u r s e , defies precise

characterisation in terms of its impact and

therefore can neither be equated  w i t h the

populism of the Congress(I) variety nor

can be reduced to the constituency he

represented.  T h e  r i c h peasant and

 ' c a p i t a l i s t - l a n d l o r d ' class-castes that

emerged in the fertile coastal Andhra region

over a period of time and crystallised into

anouveau riche stratum  w i t h multiple

economic interests in the cinema production

and distribution, agro-industry and the

t e r t i a r y sector  ( i n  s o c i a l terms

predominantly belonging to the kamma

caste) but denied access to the corridors

of political power during the three decades

of Congress rule, found in  N T R a general

who could rally the masses in the electoral

battle- field and further the political

interests of this class. The uninhibited anti-

feudal rhetoric deployed by  N T R (partly

because of the innocence of a political

novice to distinguishrealpolitik from stage

acting) could catch the popular imagination.

In this context, the abolition of the

institution of village officers (VOs) and the

reorganisation of panchayat raj system, to

take two instances, coalesced  w i t h the

substantial popular disenchantment  w i t h

dominant feudal interests and provided an

institutional framework for the articulation

and realisation of popular aspirations. The

three hereditary VOs, i e, patwari maintaining

revenue records, mali patel looking after the

revenue collection and the patel in charge

of law and order, together with the landlord

were symbols of feudal dominance and

oppression in the countryside, the reason

why they were targets of peasant straggles

both prior to and after independence. In spite

of such a notorious image of this institution,

the Congress government which abolished

the zamindari and jagirdari systems had

instead retained it and transformed it into a

distinctly pro-Congress institution and used

it for political and electoral purposes. The

T D P government, through the abolition of

VOs had not only struck at the grass roots

institutional base of the Congress but also

politically enhanced its own credibility and


The restructuring of the panchayat raj

system, as part of it the creation of 1,058

mandal parishads in the place of large

panchayat samithis has to be seen in the

context of changing rural social structure

in the state. As a result of the political

economy of development, the expansion of

the tertiary sector, and the new opportunities

we witness the emergence of a 'middle

class' from the backward communities like

Y a d a v a (shepherds),  G o u d a  ( t o d d y -

tappers), Munnuru Kapu (peasant caste),

Padmashali (weavers) in a significant way

during 1970s. These castes  w h i c h  t i l l then

played a second fiddle to the dominant

landowing castes began to assert themselves

in village politics because of the latent

political awareness of the power of their

number in electoral politics.  N T R ' s mandal

system was specifically meant to draw in

this section and carve out a political base

among these castes. The introduction of 25

 per cent reservation to the OBCs in the

local bodies was meant to consolidate this

c o n s t i t u e n c y .  T h u s  t h r o u g h  m a n d a l

panchayat system the TDP could create a

support base among the  O B C communities

by providing political berths to the articulate

sections and accommodating them in the

lower positions  w i t h i n the dominant power

structure. (The Congress(I), after it came,

to power in 1989,  w i t h a view to scuttle

the  T D P ' s base, tried, to restore the  o l d

panchayat  s a m i t h i s  b u t  g a u g i n g the

resentment it would have had attracted

from these sections it withdrew the move.)

The stronghold the  T D P had built and

nurtured among the backward castes during

the first term in office and critical to its

future electoral performance has been

disturbed by the Kanshi Ram phenomenon.

The monolithic character of the  T D P ,

largely arising out of the unquestioned

leadership and total control of its el supremo

and the homogeneity of the dominant

kamma caste that is the mainstay of the

p a r t y , pre-empts the  p o s s i b i l i t y  o f

articulation of the interests of the backward

castes that may disturb the well-defined

framework and spill out of the well-drawn

boundary. It may be recollected that in the

decade-old  h i s t o r y of the party, the

i n t o l e r a n c e  t o independent  o p i n i o n ,

arrogant and humiliating treatment of the

ministers and party functionaries, especially

belonging to the backward castes made

them to leave the  T D P . This style of

functioning may prove dear to the  T D P in

the new dispensation characterising the

emergent situation.




In contrast to this, the Congress(I) has

become a hub of activity propelled precisely

on caste lines. Given the loose organisational

structure and relatively weak control system

the state committees have acquired as a result

of the reduction of state '^traps' to small

time power brokers during Indira Gandhi's

tenure and continued to remain subsequently,

the stage was well set for dissidence, which

is another name for bargaining of a

rearrangement of the distribution of spoils

preferably under the supervision of a mutually

acceptable power broker. Since this is an

election year, the compulsions are such that

the possibility of yielding to pressures

becomes all the greater, therefore dissidence

galore. Thanks to Kanshi Ram, caste has

become the most sought after candidate for

electoral mobilisation: the leaders belonging

to different caste groups (who does not have

caste?) discover an enhancement in their

bargaining capacity if they could claim

leadership of their castes, Hence press

conferences, conventions and rallies—all held

in the name of 'neglected', 'depressed' and

'exploited' castes to appeal to the SC-OBCs


to vote for a party that reserves 75 par cent

i n the  f o r t h c o m i n g elections  i n cor-

respondence to their proportion in the

population, Thus somebody like Shivshakar,

who was a member of Indira and Rajiv

Gandhi's cabinet but marginalised in the

present regime has been trying to rally the

likes of him in the Congress in the name of

weaker sections and demanding 75 per cent

assembly seats and the chief ministership to

them. Belonging to the kapu community of

Telengana, which is significant in number

and fairly prosperous in some northern

districts and therefore an advantage which

he wants to cash on.

The kapus of coastal Andhra, concentrated

in the agrarian rich east and west Godavari

and Krishna are a different lot altogether.

They were with the  T D P earlier and their

drift away from the  T D P began after the exit

of Mudragada Padbhanbham from it and

accomplished dramatically with the and-

kamma riots following the murder of the

Congress(I)MLA Vangaveeti Mohana Ranga

Rao in December 1988. It may be noted that

the heightened anti-kamma feeling among

the kapus was a major cause of the defeat

of the TDP in this part in the 1989 assembly

elections. Now the Kapu Nadu has intensified

the agitation for the inclusion of kapus in

the OBC category, which has been its major

demand for the last half decade, (While the

kapus of Telengana are OBCs, the kapus of

Andhra are not.) As the main actors in this

agitation belong to the Congress(I), the

factional differences in the party get reflected

in the Kapu Nadu as well. Nevertheless the

very fact that not a day passes without a front

page report about the activities of the kapus

in the vernacular press, ever since they

intensified their agitation in the month of

March, is a vindication of their power to keep

the government on its toes,  w h i c h no

backward community can ever think of.

If the dissidence within the Congress takes

the form of caste for obvious reasons, the

voicing of the question of power to the

'weaker sections' by the well-placed Congress

leaders like G Venkat Swamy, a member in

the union cabinet, and V Hanumantha Rao,

a former president of the APCC(I) and a

Rajya Sabha member deserves to be

commented upon. If the supposed proximity

of Venkat Swamy to the PM is a factor in

considering his voice as an echo of the High

Command's thinking in the changed context,

the fact that he is the sole visible leader frorti

the SC community in the state makes  h i m

a probable check, so it is believed, to the

Kanshi Ram phenomenon in the state.  A d d

to this the  o f f i c i a l l y - s p o n s o r e d BC

conventions at Suryapet, the convention of

weavers at Rajamundry, of washermen and

shepherds at Hyderabad (of other castes are

announced to be held) participated by the

BC-SC ministers and also addressed by Vijaya

Bhaskar Reddy can be seen as an evidence


of the Congress(i) Party's attempt to come

to grips  w i t h the emerging caste aspirations.

In the ongoing political process, thus, two

broad strands of caste articulation can be

identified,  f i r s t l y , the strand, represented by

the SC-OBC leaders within the dominant

parties, that bargains for a larger share in the

power structure. The basis of this is the logic

of caste arithmetic rather than any clearly

defined long-term ideological perspective.

As this demand gains currency it may prod

the dominant parties to rethink their strategies

of co-option with a view to accommodate

the emergent caste interest groups in the

dominant structure.

Secondly, the strand that considers the

forging of the unity of dalit-bahujan forces

as a historical necessity for the realisation

of the project of caste annihilation. The

political embodiment of this strand, at the

present, is the BSR It may be said that the

characterisation of the BSP, by some critics,

as a statist party because of its emphasis on

gaining political power through parliamentary

means is overstretched. For, the fact of

gravitation of the social, forces emerging

from the movements of  c i v i l society towards

the BSP, as the AP experience shows, may

have a significant impact on its character and

structure cannot be overlooked.

Thus the kaleidoscopic developments in

the state politics are such that it should be

no surprise if in the political script that is

being written, thanks to the spectre of

caste, the  d i r e c t i o n  o f the  p o l i t i c a l

scenario and the actors on the stage would

not be the same.