ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dalits, Praja Rajyam Party and Caste Politics in Andhra Pradesh

The formation of the Praja Rajyam Party in Andhra Pradesh has been received with conflicting attitudes and expectations by the two major dalit castes in the state. While the Malas embraced the party as the champion of social justice, the Madigas opposed it as the party of the Kapus. Rather than seeing the prp in these binary and oppositional lenses, it is necessary to view the party as a new choice for dalits. A brief history of caste politics in Andhra Pradesh is also undertaken in this essay.

I am grateful to Srivatsan and Bindu K C for helping me to ne-tune my arguments, and also to Zeba Ghory and Erin Anastasi for commenting on earlier drafts of this paper. T he mass migration of many dalit leaders who had previously been outside the spectrum of mainstream political parties and the emerging allegiance as well as opposition of a considerable proportion of dalit masses, to the recently e stablished Praja Rajyam Party (PRP) (literally, Peoples Rule) has become an event of varied interpretation and commentary in Andhra Pradesh (AP). Of these, three specic comments that are of signicant interest are: one, that the PRP is a champion of social justice, and is therefore, the political alternative that has been long awaited by the dalits and other marginalised sections in the state;1 two, that the PRP is not the praja rajyam (peoples rule), it is the Kapu rajyam (rule of the Kapus);2 and three, the dalit movement in the state has reached the end of the road. These comments in the context of a highly fragmented dalit movement, and also in the context of the continuous marginalisation of dalits by mainstream political parties, compel us to ask: Is the PRP an alternative political platform for the dalits, and is it the champion of social justice? Why did one section among the dalits, represented by the Mala caste, positively respond, and why did another dalit section, represented by the Madiga caste, oppose the PRP? What are the implications of the dalit migration to the PRP for the dalit movement and politics? Is it true that the dalit movement has reached the end of the road in the state, or is the current situation just a hiatus in the long road ahead? Rather than taking these binary and oppositional positions, this paper seeks to analyse the political meaning of this crucial moment in AP politics, especially from the vantage point of dalits.

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