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Peek into History: Disproportionate political representation of Castes in AP Politics (Part 4)

 (This article is fourth in the series on the evolution and development of Telugu States)
 
The decade following the State’s formation saw the emergence of contradictions inherent in the political economy of development, followed by Congress Party governments both at State and central levels. 
 
These contradictions can broadly be identified as, firstly, between the regional social classes and the pan-Indian capitalist class, the principal element in the regional class formation being the rich peasant-landlord class; and, secondly, between the dominant castes/classes and the working people. These contradictions assumed various political and social forms almost simultaneously and tended to reinforce each other.
 
The various forms and sites of expression of these contradictions could be identified as: i) regional movements; ii) CPI (ML)-led agrarian movements; iii) factionalism within the Congress Party along caste and regional lines; and, iv) caste movements.
 
Rise & Disappearance of Telangana movement
 
One of the most significant forms of political articulation to shake the State was the movement for a separate State of Telangana. The movement, which began as an independent non-party expression with educated youths and employees as the main participants in the initial phase, was basically articulating the grievances of discrimination and injustice felt by these sections vis-à-vis the employees from the developed region of coastal Andhra. 
 
As the movement gained momentum in terms of spread and mobilisation, a section of the Congress Party leadership from Telangana joined and gave it an explicitly party- political dimension.
 
The movement for a separate Telangana articulated the popular classes’ grievances over the merger of a backward region with a developed region. It is, therefore, relevant to note that the political élite of the region that felt marginalised in the political arrangement that evolved after the formation of AP found in this an opportunity to bargain for a better political arrangement. 
The movement in the later phase came totally under the control of a faction of the Congress Party leadership led by M. Chenna Reddy. Popular support for this movement can be gauged from the fact that in the 1971 Lok Sabha elections, the Telangana Praja Samithi (TPS) won as many as 10 seats and received 14.3% of the vote. 
 
The movement dissipated due to the intolerance and high-handedness of the Congress Party high command and the compromise reached by the Congress Party faction in the leadership of the movement. 
 
The generally shared view among the then youthful participants in the movement was that it was ‘an act of betrayal’. This mistrust of the political élite continues to be bitter among the people.What this movement, despite its failure, did to the Congress Party, was to further crystallise the factions in the party along regional lines.
 
Communist Party Splits
 
Another important development that has significance for Indian politics is the split that took place in the communist movement in the late 1960s. The initial division occurred in 1964, when the Communist Party split into the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI (M)). 
 
This was later followed by a further division and the formation of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI (ML). This development resulted in the poor peasantry and agrarian labour waging militant struggles in different parts of the country. 
AP also witnessed the massive rise of agrarian struggles following a long spell of left-wing complacency. Given that India’s economy was semi-feudal and semi-colonial, the CPI (ML) initiated the struggles in backward agrarian pockets such as northern Andhra and Telangana. 
 
Indira Gandhi: Congress’ centralisation of Power 
 
In the context of the present discussion, it is relevant to note that these struggles demonstrated the limitations of the Congress Party government’s agrarian reformism. 
 
The reforms had strengthened the hold of a new and perhaps more aggressive landlord class in the countryside, which combined its power of land ownership with caste dominance to exploit the opportunities opened up by democratic institutions and developmental channels. These struggles also revealed the limits of the promise of democracy to the depressed communities and the need to explore alternative forms of political articulation.
 
Following the separatist movement and the militant agrarian struggles, the Congress Party initiated certain organisational and leadership changes and a shift in its policy agenda, which had a significant bearing on State politics. These changes are not unique to AP but are part of the overall changes the party and its regime witnessed in the country following the 1969 split.
 
It must be noted that in the literature on Indian politics, there is a tendency to attribute the shift towards increasing centralisation of power and personalisation of decision-making in the Congress Party to, and to emphasise the personality of, Indira Gandhi. 
 
It is, however, important to note that the above response of the Congress Party was one of the choices objectively structured by the political economy of India, which led to the concentration of wealth and power in few classes. 
 
Uneven development triggers divisive politics
 
The logic of the political economy of development in the post-Independence period was such that, instead of resolving the unevenness inherited from colonial times, it further expanded it. The uneven development of regions and the uneven access to resources by different castes and communities (including the dominant ones), and the asymmetry in the availability of economic, social and political resources, mark the developmental process in post-Independence India. 
 
The political developments and, in particular, the changing caste-class dynamics in the State since the 1970s, have to be appreciated against this background.

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