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Peek into History: Peek into History: Political developments in the 1970s in Andhra Pradesh - Part 2

(This article is sixth in the series on the evolution and development of Telugu States)
 
Another facet of the transformation that took place in the countryside following the Green Revolution, was the emergence and consolidation of the market-related rich peasant class, which moved to the centre-stage of Indian politics and the political economy (Bardhan, 1984). 
 
In the ruling-class coalition, dominated by big businesses and the industrial class, the rich peasantry was an important and fairly aggressive class. 
 
It depended on the level of its politico-ideological maturity and acceptability (which was in turn shaped by the historical context of the configuration of social forces), the extent and expanse of social crisis, and, of course, the leadership’s ability to make use of available resources to create real or imaginary aspirations among the people. 
 
Rise of populism: How ruling-class coalition marginalised rural poor
 
Given its subordinate position in the hierarchical power structure of the ruling-class coalition and its aggressive class instinct, this class displayed an inclination for an agitational mode of articulation in the pursuit of its interests and for the enlargement of its share in State patronage, through budgetary and plan allocations. 
 
Although its major demand was for subsidies for agricultural inputs, such as electricity, fertilisers, high-yield variety seeds and remunerative prices for its produce, it displayed a tremendous organisational ability. It rallied the lower echelons of rural society through its populist, progressive postures on economic, ecological, gender and nationality issues, while at the same time sidelining land reforms and wage issues that directly concerned the rural poor. 
 
The agitations of this class, which assumed aggressive forms such as rasta roko, rail roko, dharnas and bandhs in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh (UP), Punjab and Karnataka in the post-Emergency period, were christened ‘New Farmers’ Movements. 
 
Other facets of this class are clearly evident in the vigorous emergence of regional political parties, the manifestation of factional conflicts within the Congress Party, the discursive significance gained by the question of regional autonomy and the renewed debate on centre-State relations in the post-Emergency period. 
 
The shift in agitational and electoral politics since the late 1970s is evidence of the centrality of this class in the States, especially in those with experience of the Green Revolution.
 
Enterprising vision, lands, film background & NRIs
 
What took place in Andhra was an aggressively enterprising version of this class, its enterprising nature being evident in its ability to explore new possibilities and expand rapidly over the decades. In search of fertile land and irrigation facilities, members of this class migrated during the agricultural season, travelling as far as northern Telangana to places such as Nizamabad, Karimnagar and Warangal, even to Bellary and Raichur in Tungabadra in Karnataka. 
 
There, they purchased or leased land to cultivate, returning to their native lands with the surplus at the end of the agricultural season. Their settlements are referred to as Guntur palles. 
 
Sociologically, the majority of this class belong to the Kamma, Reddy and Kapu castes of the Krishna-Godavari delta. They have also entered into the cinema industry and dominated its production, distribution and even exhibition; invested in education and contributed to its commercialisation and come to dominate even the media – both print and electronic. The families belonging to this class constitute a big chunk of the so-called NRIs – the Non-Resident Indians.
 
Rise of the OBCs
 
It was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that the emergence of an educated and peasant middle class from OBC castes such as the Munnuru Kapu, Padmashali (weaver), Gouda (toddy tapper), Golla and Kurma (sheep rearing) castes took place. This was due to the State-sponsored developmental process, the Green Revolution strategy and the availability of education in rural society.
 
With their newfound wealth, they entered the rural credit system, co-operatives and small business. Thanks to reservations in education and employment, their educated youth also entered educational institutions as teachers and State bureaucracy in subaltern positions. 
 
Panchayat Raj strengthening 
 
This change in the socio-economic scenario in the State infused confidence in these communities; as a result, they could stake their claims in local politics such as the Panchayat Raj institutions.
 
In the earlier period, the Congress Party successfully co-opted the agenda, issues and the militant peasantry through its strategy of agrarian reforms, and it was able to contain and reduce the influence of the left. Further, through electoral politics and the Panchayat Raj system in particular, it sought to consolidate its social support among different castes and classes. 
 
The political economy of development pursued by the Congress Party after Independence generated a new structure of contradictions. The principal aspect of this was the conflict between the dominant caste peasantry and the landless lower castes. It is this process of change that forms the context of the social articulation of caste and class in Andhra Pradesh.

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