With Lok Sabha polls a month away, the Madiga question haunts political parties in Telangana

Powerful and numerically strong Madigas can make or mar the prospects of political formations in Telangana.

ByRaj Rayasam

Published Apr 13, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedApr 13, 2024 | 9:00 AM

With Lok Sabha polls a month away, the Madiga question haunts political parties in Telangana

The Madiga community holds the answer to a million-dollar question even as Telangana prepares for the Lok Sabha elections a month away.

The question over the Madigas’ support has been haunting the political parties in the electoral fray. Powerful and numerically strong in Telangana, the Madigas can make or mar the prospects of political formations.

Manda Krishna Madiga, the founder-president of the Madiga Reservation Porata Samiti (MRPS), has been backing the BJP in the belief that the saffron party would support the community’s long-pending demand.

Founded in 1994, the MRPS has been demanding sub-categorisation in the reservation quota for Scheduled Castes (SCs) for an equitable distribution of state allocations among all constituent castes in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

Historically associated with tannery and small handicrafts, the Madigas later forayed into farming. With various sub-castes in the community, they are spread over the two Telugu states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

Related: PM Modi makes politically-loaded sub-categorisation promise

Hope in BJP

Krishna Madiga’s hope in the BJP was fuelled in November 2023 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared with him a dais and showered him and the community with affection.

Modi, then campaigning for the BJP ahead of the Telangana Assembly elections, also pledged support to the Madigas’ demand for sub-categorisation of SCs to benefit more from reservation in jobs and education.

Further, the Madiga leader opined that other parties had let the community down. Krishna Madiga pointed out that the Congress ignored the community leaders while finalising candidates for the three constituencies — Nagarkurnool, Peddapally, and Warangal — reserved for SCs.

While the Congress fielded Mala community leaders Dr Mallu Ravi in Nagarkurnool and G Vamsi Krishna in Peddapally, it nominated Kadiyam Kavya, a non-Madiga, as its candidate in Warangal.

Kavya, belonging to the Byndla SC sub-caste, was initially the BRS candidate in Warangal. She resigned from the party after it nominated her and joined the Congress.

“We comprise two-thirds of the SC population but we are always at the receiving end,” Krishna Madiga told South First.

He added that if the perceived increase in Madigas since 2014 was taken into account, they would be about 50 lakh. “Ours is the largest  (community) among all castes and yet we are getting a raw deal,” he said.

The BRS invited Krishna Madiga’s wrath by fielding Malas RS Praveen Kumar and Koppula Eshwar from Nagarkurnool and Peddapally, respectively, besides initially naming Kavya in Warangal.

Realising the Madiga sentiments, the BJP fielded two leaders from the community. It has Aroori Ramesh in Warangal and P Bharat, son of sitting MP P Ramulu, in Nagarkurnool.

The nomination of two Madiga leaders made the community feel that the BJP has done justice to it. The Madigas have been claiming that since they formed two-thirds of the SCs, they should get two tickets, which the BJP did.

Interview: Manda Krishna Madiga on why Modi can save Madigas

The Modi trick

According to the 2011 decadal census, Telangana was home to 54,32,680 people for SC communities. Madigas comprised 32,33,642 of the SC population, while Malas were 15,27,143 strong.

An Integrated Household Survey by the Telangana government in 2014 put the state’s SC population at 63,60,158 (about 18 percent of the total population of 3,68,76,544).

Ever since Modi flew down to Hyderabad and hugged Krishna Madiga at the MRPS Viswaroopam public meeting, the voice of the community for a better deal became shriller.

“I believe the BJP alone would do justice to the Madigas either in ensuring categorisation of the SCs or helping them get better representation in the legislative bodies. The allotment of two of three tickets to Madigas vindicates my view,” Krishna Madiga told South First.

The Madigas were angry at the BRS since K Chandrashekar Rao, when he was the chief minister, did not accommodate even a single Madiga in his Cabinet. He gave berths to seven Reddys and four Velamas. The only SC minister was Koppula Eeswar, a Mala.

Meanwhile, the BJP believed that Modi’s presence at the Viswaroopam rally had brought more Madigas closer to the party. The outfit, which was not strong in Telangana, sprouted green shoots in the 30 November 2023 Assembly polls by winning eight seats.

Though the party won only one Assembly seat in 2018, it bagged four Lok Sabha seats in the elections held a year later.

Related: PM Modi plays Dalit card, vows to resolve SC sub-categorisation row

Pledging support to BJP

Union Home Minister and senior party leader Amit Shah had set a target of more than 10 seats for the BJP — a tall order since the party has not yet spread its wings in several districts.

Even as the party was now trying to expand its footprint in Telangana by occupying the space vacated by the BRS, Modi’s support for the Madigas and categorisation seemed to have worked in BJP’s favour.

Krishna Madiga said the Madigas would support the BJP in the 13 May election to the 18th Lok Sabha, since the party had kept its word to constitute a committee and support categorisation in the Supreme Court.

“This will help the Madigas. Their only objective is the categorisation of the SCs for reservation. Modi is showing proof of his commitment. Why shouldn’t the Madigas support the BJP?” he asked.

Related: Importance of Dalit voters in Telangana

The Congress version

However, the Congress felt otherwise. Madiga leader and former MLA SA Sampath Kumar said the community would shun the BJP. Traditionally, the Madigas opposed the BJP Manuvada ideology, which went against the Dalit line of thought.

Kumar wondered why Madigas would trust Modi on the categorisation issue.

“If he was that much concerned about Madigas, what prevented him from ensuring categoristaion during the past 10 years?,” he questioned before justifying the Congress’s stand.

“When the Congress was in power it constituted the Usha Mehra Commission. It submitted its report but since the Telangana movement was then raging, the Centre’s priority shifted to the bifurcation of the state. In 2014, the Congress lost the election and Narendra Modi took over,” he pointed out.

The former lawmaker further said the Cabinet could have approved the Usha Mehra Commission’s recommendations.

“The report is very much there. The Cabinet has to approve the report which seeks to amend Article 341 (A) of the Indian Constitution. It would empower states to categorise the SCs,” Kumar said.

The Congress leader said Chief Minister A Revanth Reddy was committed to the categorisation of the SCs.

“Revanth Reddy, though he had been with the TDP, joined hands with me in raising his voice in support of categorisation which led to our suspension from the House,” he recalled.

Related: After poll promise to Madigas, PM asks officials to expedite formation of committee

‘Look beyond candidates’

Kumar said the Madigas were unhappy over Krishna Madiga supporting the BJP. “They were never emotionally involved with the BJP,” he said and wondered how one could call Congress anti-Madiga just because it could not accommodate a Madiga in the reserved seats.

“It is not fair,” he opined.

“I, too, was seeking to contest from Nagarkurnool. But the party did not allot the ticket to me. It does not mean that the party was against the Madigas. The party may have considered several factors like winnability, financial resources, and so on,” he explained.

“Allotment or non-allotment of the ticket to Madigas is not an indicator of whether a party is pro-Madigas or not,” he asserted, stressing that one should keep in mind whether the party was working for the betterment of the Madigas and whether it was making a sincere effort in improving their living standards.

“One should look at the broader picture, not just how many Madigas the party has fielded in the elections,” he said.

Related: Rumblings of discontent in Congress over fielding ‘migrants’, ignoring Madigas 

Krishna Madiga in Modi’s trap?

Political analyst Telakapalli Ravi felt Krishna Madiga might have erred by backing the BJP.

“Manda Krishna Madiga’s experiment of moving closer to Narendra Modi might backfire on him. The Dalit ideology clashes with Manuvada which is written all over the saffron party. The Madigas may not like their leader to identify with a party with roots entrenched in Manuvaada. The BJP-Krishna Madiga combination looks odd,” he said.

Ravi opined that the BJP might not get any additional benefit from Krishna Madiga’s campaign. For Dalits, their ideology is bigger than their leader.

“Krishna Madiga is risking credibility erosion by riding shotgun with Narendra Modi. In Telangana, the BJP is not a major force. Its campaign is muted after Bandi Sanjay Kumar was eased out as the president of the state unit,” the analyst said.

Ravi saw Modi’s declaration of support for Madigas was to project himself as the messiah of Dalits.

“He needs to shed the Manuvada identity to get closer to SCs and other Bahujans. When he visited Secunderabad, he had the entire nation in his mind, not just winning a few seats in Telangana. He is more interested in foraying into the South. Joining hands with Krishna Madiga was one such calibrated move. Krishna Madiga seems to have fallen for it,” Ravi said.

(Edited by Majnu Babu).