PM Modi plays Dalit card in poll-bound Telangana, vows to resolve SC sub-categorisation row

Addressing a massive campaign meeting in Secunderabad, the prime minister said he will fight for the Madiga cause.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Nov 11, 2023 | 10:31 PM Updated Nov 11, 2023 | 10:31 PM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi chief Manda Krishna Madiga in Secunderabad on Saturday. (Supplied)

A committee will be constituted to permanently resolve the vexed issue of sub-categorisation of Scheduled Castes (SCs), Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday, 11 November.

Consoling an overwhelmed Dalit leader — Manda Krishna Madiga — and “apologising” to the community on behalf of all parties, Modi reiterated that the committee would resolve sub-categorisation row, a vow he has made in the past as well.

With the announcement, Modi sought endorsement, without actually asking for it, from the Dalit community ahead of Telangana Assembly polls. Dalits make up 17 percent of Telangana population, of which Madigas are a majority.

Addressing a massive election campaign meeting — “Madigas Viswaroopa Mahasabha” — the BJP organised at Parade Ground in Secunderabad, Modi said the Union government would ensure justice to SCs as the BJP could understand the injustice done to the community.

“We will end the injustice being meted out to the SCs… it is our commitment, and the BJP will stand with you. To resolve the issue, we will set up a committee,” he said, stating he was aware of a related case pending before the Supreme Court.

Modi’s announcement came at a time when the Assembly election in Telangana is scheduled to be held on 30 November.

“If you all agree with me, please switch on the flashlights on your mobile phones. From now onwards, I will be an assistant to Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi chief Manda Krishna Madiga, who is my younger brother. I will cooperate in his fight for protecting the rights of the Madiga community,” the prime minister said.

Madigas are one of the largest constituents of SCs in Telangana.

Batting for Madigas

Lauding Krishna Madiga for continuing the agitation for sub-categorisation for the past 30 years and spending his young age in the movement, Modi appreciated everyone for continuing a non-violent movement in support of their demand.

After arriving on the dais, Modi met BJP leaders and Krishna Madiga. However, Krishna Madiga broke down suddenly. On seeing him, Modi consoled him, patting his shoulders.

Naa Kutumbha Sabhyulara (My family members). Krishna Madiga is working like one life, one mission and fighting for the rights of the community. I request him to involve me in his fight,” Modi said, adding that he did not arrive in the city to seek something from the people.

Commencing his speech in Telugu by invoking the names of Goddess Sammakka Saralamma and Lord Yadadri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy, Modi said he was happy to meet everyone on Deepavali-eve.

“After Independence, you (people) have seen several governments, but the BJP government is according priority to the uplift of poor people with the slogan, “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”, to eliminate poverty. He said Telugu poet Gurram Jashuva, who was a legendary figure in the Telugu literary world, inspired him to underscore the need for social justice.

In his book, Jashuva referred to Kashi Baba Kashi Vishwanath. “As an elected representative of Kashi (Varanasi), I share your feelings, and today I came here with the blessings of Baba Vishwanath,” the prime minister said.

“After Independence, political parties and leaders gave promises and duped you. As a political leader, I seek apologies for their sins. For the past 10 years, the ruling party in Telangana has duped Madigas and other communities. The Congress created hurdles in the formation of a separate Telangana,” he took on both the BRS and the Congress.

Related: PM Modi backs BC chief minister for Telangana pitch

Broken promises

Modi then sought to whip up the Telangana sentiment.

“After several sacrifices by the youth, a separate Telangana was formed. But the BRS leaders went to meet the Congress chief. During the Telangana agitation, BRS supremo K Chandrashekhar Rao promised to make a Dalit the chief minister. He later promised to give three acres each to Dalits,” he said.

The prime minister added that after coming to power Chandrashekhar Rao ignored the promises made to Dalits and encroached on the chief minister’s chair. “Did the BRS fulfil the promises? Did the Dalit Bandhu scheme help you? The scheme helped only the relatives of BRS MLAs,” Modi alleged.

Chandrashekhar Rao promised to waive the loans of farmers, but failed to do so. He converted the irrigation schemes into irrigation scams in Telangana, Modi contended.

Cautioning people to be careful of the BRS and the Congress as they were the same, Modi criticised Chief Minister KCR for disrespecting the chief architect of the Indian Constitution Dr BR Ambedkar and calling for a new Constitution.

The Congress, too, defeated Ambedkar twice in elections and did not allow his portrait to be placed in Parliament’s Central Hall. The same Congress did not allow conferring the prestigious Bharat Ratna on Ambedkar. After it came to power, the BJP placed Ambedkar’s portrait in the Central Hall and conferred him the Bharat Ratna, Modi pointed out.

Stating that like the BRS, the Congress, too, had a history of hating the downtrodden, Modi said the grand old party humiliated Dalit icon Babu Jagjivan Ram. The Congress also humiliated former President Ram Nath Kovind when the BJP proposed his name for the top job.

When the BJP proposed the name of tribal woman Droupadi Murmu as the President of India, the Congress opposed it. But the BJP, for the first time, appointed a Dalit officer Hiralal Samariya as the Chief Information Commissioner. As usual, the Congress did not support the move, Modi alleged.

BRS hits back

Soon after Modi made the promised about forming a committee for sub-categorisation of SCs, the BRS hit back at him, saying he had made the same promise earlier in 2014.

It also pointed out that former vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, too, had made the same promise from the same Parade Ground when he was a BJP leader.

Related: ‘Does being prime minister mean he is dictator of country’

BRS, Cong  on the same page

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is part of the Opposition INDIA bloc, also humiliated former Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Alleging that both the BRS and the Congress were known for corruption, Modi said the Congress has been cooperating with the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi.

The Congress won’t cooperate on people’s issues but on corruption, he said, adding that both the BRS and the Congress were together.

Modi said the BJP would not indulge in unnecessary politics and would always strive to render service to the people like constructing permanent houses and toilets, and providing LPG gas connections and bank loans. A majority of the poor people especially, SCs, Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Backward Classes (BCs) benefited from these initiatives, he claimed.

Under the Stand-up India scheme, crores of rupees were given as loans to SC and STs to turn them into entrepreneurs.

In the past nine years, 13 lakh scholarships were given to SCs. Keeping in view the requirements of the people, the Union government has decided to extend the free distribution of five-kg food grains under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana for the next five years.

The prime minister said he worked and trained under the former BJP national president, the late Bangaru Laxman, a Madiga.

Related: PM Modi is set to visit Telangana for three consecutive days from 25 to 27 November

Skewed quotas

According to Krishna Madiga, the Mala community has been enjoying the reservation benefits in the absence of caste-wise reservations among the SCs in proportion to the population.

This also led to friction between Madigas and Malas.

It may be noted that the decision to implement internal reservations for SC communities was cited as one of the reasons for the BJP’s poll debacle in the Karnataka Assembly elections. Given the BJP’s bitter experience, the topic continues to be a contentious one for any party.

In Telangana, according to the 2011 census, the SC population was 54,32,680, of whom Madigas comprised 32,33,642 and Malas accounted for 15,27,143.

As no census was carried out afterwards, the Telangana government did a comprehensive family survey in 2014, which put the Dalit population at 75 lakhs, which is about 18 percent of the state’s total population.

Related: Who benefits by Pawan Kalyan’s entrance in Telangana poll fray?

The sub-categorisation issue

The sub-categorisation of SCs has been a contentious issue for almost three decades.

Andhra Pradesh had sub-categorised SCs into four groups in 1997 and fixed separate quotas for them. However, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court struck down the sub-categorisation in 2004.

Following the apex court verdict, the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in a resolution in the same year urged the Union government to take up the matter. A National Commission was set up under Justice Usha Mehra recommended an amendment to Article 341 of the Constitution to sub-categorise SCs and STs.

In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha on 26 July this year, Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment A Narayanaswamy said 13 states and one Union Territory have been opposed to the sub-categorisation of SCs.

While Kerala has opposed the sub-categorisation, the minister said Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Karnataka supported the move.

A five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had, in August 2020, observed that sub-categorisation of SCs and STs would not be unconstitutional. It disagreed with the earlier Supreme Court verdict on the issue.

Minister Narayanaswamy further informed the Upper House that the Constitution Bench had requested the chief justice to post the matter to a seven or more-judge bench.

On Saturday, Modi announced that the Union government would take a pro-categorisation stand when the matter came up in court.