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ELECTION

Caste and welfare mixed with a southern flair: Election in Pincodes

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HT examines a few crucial seats throughout the nation that best capture the factors influencing the current Lok Sabha election.

Lakshmi Tirupatamma follows a custom. Every month on the first, the 22-year-old leaves on a well-known journey to visit 50 homes. She first retrieves her outdated Android phone and a bulging folder from her cabinet. In her Andhra Pradesh neighbourhood of Navaluru, a peri-urban sprawl on the outskirts of the Guntur district, everyone knows everyone. Celebrations of life like birthdays and marriages are shared, as also rumours about single individuals spotted cuddling up with frosted soft drink bottles.

Like most of the 25,000 people living in the town, Lakshmi is a master at small chat despite only having completed her high school education. She skillfully balances her desires for cosmopolitanism with the morals of a tiny town. Her ability is put to good use as a volunteer at the village panchayat secretariat office, where she helps the state government with a variety of tasks. These include visiting 50 households, identifying government scheme beneficiaries, assisting with the creation of all necessary identity cards, delivering pensions, and making sure that all welfare schemes are delivered to the last mile.

She is paid 5,000 a month for this. In addition, the volunteers earn widespread recognition straight away, an Android phone, a government ID that works practically anywhere in rural Andhra Pradesh, and the ability to talk a lot about their “government job.” It is a blessing for a recent high school graduate who had to drop out owing to financial difficulties.

“I was extremely happy to have a job,” Tirupatamma remarked.

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However, in November of last year, the state government planned a caste census, the second comprehensive one after Bihar, which put her already full plate at risk of overflowing. Chief secretary KS Jawahar Reddy outlined the state’s plan in an eight-page letter that HT was able to view. The letter addressed all senior government employees and was primarily focused on the 266,000-person army of quasi-government workers, or Tirupatamma, who are the backbone of Andhra Pradesh’s welfare delivery system. The state-wide census was eventually finished in February, following two rounds of delays. This places Andhra Pradesh in a select group of states that have tried to physically count every caste—a colonial practice that independent India shunned.

The exercise’s external objective was clear: identify the ways in which social programmes are ingrained in underprivileged areas and implement remedial measures. According to the letter signed by Reddy, “the caste survey can play a crucial role in enabling customised development strategies for the historically marginalised communities by revealing development gaps and disparities in the social and economic opportunities within various castes.”

In the southern state, where assembly polls are being held in conjunction with general elections and chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy is aiming to become the first chief minister since his father, YS Rajasekhara Reddy, to win a second consecutive term—a feat no one has accomplished in fifteen years—shifting caste dynamics were also intertwined with this. There were some similarities between it and a similar experiment that was conducted in Bihar for similar overt political reasons, but the consequences have remained unclear due to the radically different caste relations on both sides of the Vindhyas.

The list

One hot February day, Tirupatamma, dressed in a pink salwar-kameez, brushed loose hair off her face. As her tour came to a close, she stopped at K Nagaraju’s house. She knew the family from before, having seen their three-room home with its fake marble floors and pale yellow peeling paint. “Every month on the first, I come here to give the family pension and ration,” she said.

However, this time around, the practice was more delicate and intricate. Lakshmi opened her phone and opened the Citizen Outreach app, which is a government app. Lakshmi was required to complete the survey in two phases, consisting of 14 questions each for the household and member sections.

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Information on the family’s size, kind of home, access to restrooms, supply of cooking gas and drinking water, and whether or not the family raised any animals was requested in the household section. The same set of questions were asked in the member section about personal information, gender, age, caste, subcaste, religion, ration card number, work experience, educational background, and amount of land owned.

Because I visit this place frequently, the name, age, and number of occupants in the residence have already been entered. But I had to confirm Nagaraju’s qualifications before moving on to look for information on the availability of necessities like drinking water and restrooms,” she stated.

However, this was not the previous instance. The cluster monitoring officer and the taluk or zonal officer, who were keenly aware of the stakes, were watching over her shoulder to make sure that the most crucial subject of all—caste—was asked and addressed amicably. However, much as in Bihar, caste is widely known in villages, and the only people who are hesitant are those who are at the bottom of the caste hierarchy.

Everybody knows everyone else. Our communities are home to the volunteers. Every month on the first, we eagerly await their coming. Thus, this procedure is merely another duty for me,” Nagaraju remarked.

By now, the sun was beating down fiercely, and Lakshmi was typing frantically at her screen. Before she could take a lunch break, she needed to confirm that Nagaraju indeed had chickens or animals, and the information she had entered into the app needed to be confirmed twice. And she was down to only one residence.

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The political

Andhra Pradesh’s politics have revolved around the two dominant communities, the Reddy and Kamma, since the state was split from the former Madras state in 1956. The former supported the Congress before defecting to the YSR Congress, while the latter backed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), which has largely alternated in power. The Kammas are local business magnates who seldom agree with the land-owning Reddys.

This is nowhere more evident than in the coastal Andhra districts of Guntur and the rice bowl. Silent and helpful, Venkat Kumar Jasti listed his land holdings and the number of cows in his goshala one afternoon in February. But the dam broke just as Pranavi, the mandal parishad development officer, was leaving his home. “After my father passed away, I relocated from Visakhapatnam to Eluru three years ago, but despite my repeated requests to the government, I still haven’t received my voter card. “Is it because the state is run by a Reddy and I am a Kamma?” he questioned furiously.

Yet, the changing sands of caste in the divided state – it lost 10 districts and the financial powerhouse of Hyderabad to Telangana in 2014 – have made traditional patterns unreliable, prompting major parties to look for new social alliances. Scheduled castes (SCs) and other backward classes (OBCs) are key players in this new upheaval.

“NT Rama Rao gave the OBCs their first political boost when he realised that the only way to end the Congress-affiliated Reddys’ hegemony was to win backward and Kamma votes. Many OBC community leaders are still affiliated with the TDP today. According to Krea University professor Sambaiah Gundimeda, Jagan was attempting to buck this trend.

An essential component of this tactic was caste enumeration. In order to count the 723 recognised caste groups (Bihar had 215), the government used its grassroots network of welfare volunteers and kept the sanctioned overhead low, at ₹10 crore as opposed to ₹500 crore in Bihar.

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All four major parties, the YSR Congress, the TDP, the Jana Sena (which claims to speak for the interests of the powerful Kapus), and the BJP, first supported the caste survey on this delicate issue. However, the TDP quickly voiced concerns, believing that the government was using its welfare infrastructure to win over more votes. Senior TDP leader Pattabhi Ram said, “Jagan Reddy basically wanted to know who will vote for them and who won’t.”

North against South

One of the main themes of the national general elections is the struggle over the opposition’s pledge to conduct a caste census across the country. However, when one moves from the heartland to the peninsula, the caste system’s outlines change significantly.

Examine the two surveys on caste. The Bihar exercise lasted for six months and was the subject of a contentious judicial dispute that took place in both the high court and the Supreme Court. With a focus on the extremely backward castes (EBC) and Dalits, two groups that chief minister Nitish Kumar has painstakingly nurtured to rekindle Mandal-era consolidations, the survey played a crucial role in raising the caste-based quota to 65%. Indeed, Kumar’s return to the NDA has mitigated a good deal of the survey’s negative effects.

But the procedure in Andhra Pradesh was completed in only two weeks. Even after three months, the results are still unknown, and most people agree that they won’t significantly alter social dynamics. “At first, we thought it may benefit our neighbourhood, but now that these elections have occurred. “In Guntur town, only the Reddys and Kammas are making decisions,” stated Anand N, a Dalit driver of autorickshaw.

CM Reddy has never mentioned the survey as a significant accomplishment of his administration during an electoral rally. Kiran Kumar Gowd, president of the All India OBC Students Association, stated, “It now appears that the exercise was to sharpen YSR Congress’s welfare politics because the CM was looking at a last-minute push to overcome anti-incumbency.”

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The trajectory of caste politics in south India, which differs greatly from the Mandal churn that has created more room for backward castes in the heartland, is the fundamental cause of these disparate dynamics. Damodaram Sanjivayya, the first Dalit chief minister of India, was appointed to the erstwhile unified Andhra Pradesh in 1960 (north India had to wait till Mayawati in 1995). Early OBC political movements started in Andhra in the late 1970s, and they were more organised in 1982 when the TDP was established. The community got a taste of power two years prior when NT Rama Rao won a landslide of assembly seats. “A variety of factors, including the Naxal movement, caste violence, local resistance movements, and land ownership, come together to form caste politics in this region.”cited Vageeshan Harathi, an assistant professor at Hyderabad’s NALSAR University.

A result of this convoluted past is the subordination of the lower classes, a topic of discussion that is still relatively new in the Midwest. For instance, the OBC quota in Andhra Pradesh is divided into five classes, A, B, C, D, and E, with percentages of 7%, 10%, 1%, 7%, and 4%, in that order. This should, in principle, result in more precisely focused quota benefit distribution. However, this has also led to a fragmentation of political authority, as underprivileged areas compete with one another for more advantages from reservations. This effectively means that while caste groups are competing with one another within each category, no macro mobilisation of the EBC kind can take place.

A radically different interpretation of the meanings of religion and caste is the second result. For example, Mary Rathnakumari identifies as Christian even though she is a SC. She claimed she never obtained her baptism certificate from the church because she did not want to miss out on quota benefits when the enumerator requested her to show it. An anonymous staff member of the chief planning officer stated, “There are many like her who straddle both worlds.”

A fierce conflict

This time around, one of the most hotly fought parliamentary seats is Guntur, where the three entwined themes of caste, welfare, and politics collide.

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Since 1999, when the state’s assembly and Lok Sabha elections have coincided, the party or alliance that has performed well in the former has also performed well in the latter. However, in other states where voters now make different decisions depending on whether they are voting for the state or federal government, this correlation has weakened.

The TDP, in coalition with the Jana Sena and the BJP, and the YSR Congress, fighting alone, are engaged in a straight-up war in Guntur. Months before the polls, Jayadev Galla, the TDP’s current member of parliament and one of just three party candidates to win in 2019, unexpectedly announced his retirement.

The party has chosen to defend a seat it won by a razor-thin margin of 4,200 votes the previous time around in the Lok Sabha contest against Pemmasani Chandra Sekhar, a physician and one of the wealthiest candidates in the state. In an attempt to increase the Kamma, dominant, and peasant castes that make up the party’s core vote, the party is discussing its development plan for the state and focusing on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Viksit Bharat pitch. The hope is that economic ambitions in a city close to the state’s largest commercial hub, Vijayawada, will triumph over caste loyalties. In this equation, the Kapus, who make up around 10% of the state, are an important factor.

The current member of the Ponnur legislative assembly seat, one of the seven segments that comprise the Lok Sabha, K Venkata Rosaiah, has been nominated by the YSRCP, in contrast. Of these seven assembly constituencies, six are held by the party. The party has made a commitment to enhance its welfare architecture, known as navaratnalu or nine stars, if it returns to power. This architecture includes health care, monthly financial support, payments to farmers, pensions, and housing help. Along with the dominating Reddys, Dalits and tribals—many of whom are impoverished—make up the majority of the party’s supporters, which makes welfare a crucial platform.

The roughly 140 castes that make up the OBC category in the state are what keep things in balance. According to the 2019 CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey, backwards were distributed about equally between the two main groups. While the TDP coalition made a separate proclamation on backward classes, pledging bigger funds, more quota advantages, and a special law to safeguard the community, the YSRCP has emphasised its record of establishing over fifty backward caste enterprises.

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The roughly 140 castes that make up the OBC category in the state are what keep things in balance. According to the 2019 CSDS-Lokniti Post-Poll Survey, backwards were distributed about equally between the two main groups. While the TDP coalition made a separate proclamation on backward classes, pledging bigger funds, more quota advantages, and a special law to safeguard the community, the YSRCP has emphasised its record of establishing over fifty backward caste enterprises. He claimed, “The caste survey guys came and said their purpose was to make sure we could demand what was rightfully ours.” However, since then, all we have heard are assurances of additional doles. Where are we employed?

At least in that regard, the north and south appear to be linked.

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ELECTION

Delhi Lok Sabha Election 2024: The IMD anticipates sweltering temperatures on election day

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Delhi Lok Sabha Election 2024: On Saturday, May 25, the day of the sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections, which will see contests for all seven parliamentary seats, the India Meteorological Department has forecast heatwave conditions in specific places in the nation’s capital. The meteorological bureau predicts that the highest temperature in Delhi would be 44 degrees Celsius.

Complete coverage of the 2024 Lok Sabha Election
The sky was mostly clear. Conditions of warm nights and heat waves in remote areas. Strong surface winds (25–35 kmph) with occasional gusts during the day are forecast for Saturday by the regional meteorological centre in New Delhi.

The meteorological centre predicts that Saturday, May 25, will have mild temperatures. While most people can tolerate the heat, there is a moderate health risk for those who are more susceptible, such as young children, the elderly, and people who have long-term medical conditions. The weather service recommended people to stay out of the heat and to dress in loose-fitting, light-colored cotton clothing that is lightweight. They also advised covering the head with an umbrella, cap, or piece of cloth.

Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi, P Krishnamurthy, highlighted that extensive steps had been taken in response to the predicted high temperatures of 44 to 45 degrees Celsius, in accordance with the Election Commission’s orders and the severe heat wave predicted by the IMD.

Alert for heatwave
As per the most recent IMD weather bulletin, scorching conditions could persist until May 27 in certain regions of Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh.

Heatwave conditions are predicted for East Uttar Pradesh from May 25 to May 27, while West Uttar Pradesh may experience them on May 26 and 27. Up till May 27, isolated areas of Delhi can potentially see hot conditions.

2024 Lok Sabha Elections in Delhi
The Lok Sabha elections are slated to take place in Delhi on Saturday, May 25. Voting will be conducted in each of the seven parliamentary constituencies from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The India Meteorological Department issued a heatwave alert, and in response, officials have set up arrangements at polling places across Delhi.

The major rivalry is between the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-led INDIA coalition and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Together, the AAP and Congress will run for four seats each in the Delhi elections, but the Congress will only run for three.

Chandni Chowk, North East Delhi, East Delhi, New Delhi, North West Delhi, West Delhi, and South Delhi are the seven constituencies.

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Lok Sabha polls: The nation votes tomorrow, intensifying the sixth phase struggle.

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The ongoing Lok Sabha polls are in their penultimate sixth phase, which begins on Saturday. As the election battle heats up, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congressman Rahul Gandhi are leading their respective parties’ campaigns.

Rahul Gandhi’s Metro ride

Gandhi rode the Delhi Metro on Thursday and spoke with other riders. Gandhi posted images from the trip on the social networking site X.

“Delhiites take the metro. He posted a caption for the photo, saying, “I am happy to see that our initiative of building Metro in Delhi has proved so convenient for public transportation. I met fellow passengers and inquired about their well-being.”

Gandhi is also making a lot of appearances in Delhi to promote party candidate Kanhaiya Kumar. This Saturday is Delhi’s election day. On June 4, the results will be made public.

Sonia Gandhi calls for the triumph of the INDIA coalition

“This election is really significant. The nation’s democracy and Constitution are at stake in this election. The issues being fought in this election include attacks on constitutional institutions, inflation, and unemployment. She urged Delhi voters to support the candidates of the Congress and INDIA bloc alliance, saying, “You have to play your part in this fight.”

Gandhi emphasised the urgent concerns the Congress has been raising in its election campaign for the Lok Sabha elections by saying, “Every single vote of yours will create employment, reduce inflation, empower women and build an equitable and equal India in a golden future.”

Kharge: The United Opposition will provide a ten-year stable government

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In an interview with Sunetra Choudhury and Saubhadra Chatterji of HT, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge discusses the campaign of his party, the future of the INDIA bloc alliance, and the possibility of a regime change following the announcement of the results.

Government takes action to revoke Prajwal’s diplomatic pass

As Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah approached Prime Minister Modi a second time to expedite action in the matter, the external affairs ministry was on Thursday in the process of cancelling the diplomatic passport of MP Prajwal Revanna, the suspended Janata Dal (Secular) leader facing allegations of mass sexual abuse.

On Tuesday, the official letter from the Karnataka government cancelling Prajwal’s passport was received by the external affairs ministry, according to sources with knowledge of the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The 33-year-old MP is presently in Germany and is being charged with rape, criminal intimidation, and sexual harassment following the discovery of thousands of films allegedly depicting him engaging in sexual actions with various women.

One of the individuals mentioned above stated, “This is being processed under the provisions of the Passports Act of 1967 and relevant regulations,” without providing any other information. How long it will take to cancel the passport was not immediately apparent.

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Prior to Phase 6 polls, 33,000 police officers and 17,500 home guards were stationed in Delhi for the Lok Sabha election.

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Sanjay Sehrawat, the DCP Election cell of Delhi Police, announced on Thursday that 33,000 police officers from Delhi Police, along with 51 paramilitary companies and 17,500 Home Guards from Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Madhya Pradesh, will be stationed in the nation’s capital ahead of the May 25 sixth phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

Additionally, Sehrawat disclosed that they have employed drones in highly sensitive areas to keep an eye out for any illicit activity.

“The Delhi Police has finished getting ready for the May 25 elections. Of the 2628 polling places, 429 are extremely sensitive. Along with the 33,000 Delhi Police officers stationed at the polling place, 51 paramilitary units will also be present for security, and 17,500 Home Guards from Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and MP will also be present, according to DCP Sehrawat.

“We have hired drones in very sensitive areas to monitor any illegal activities,” he stated.

Sehrawat also revealed that a lot of CCTV cameras have been placed on the interstate borders in anticipation of the simultaneous elections in Haryana and Delhi.

On the interstate borders, we have erected a sizable number of CCTV cameras that will be watched around-the-clock. A combined team from the Delhi Police and the Haryana Police will be monitoring the Delhi-Haryana border because both cities are holding elections on the same day,” he stated.

The Delhi Police seized approximately ₹14 crore in cash during the entire election campaign, according to the DCP Election cell. The purpose of the investigation is to determine how this money was spent.

All seven seats in Delhi are up for election in a single phase, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the INDIA bloc—which includes the Congress and AAP—will compete fiercely.

In the nation’s capital, the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress are fighting together for four seats and three seats, respectively. Chandni Chowk, East Delhi, New Delhi, North East Delhi, North West Delhi, South Delhi, and West Delhi are the seven parliamentary constituencies in Delhi.

Polling took place in its first five phases on April 19, April 26, May 7, May 13, and May 20. The following two voting rounds are scheduled for June 1 and May 25. On June 4, the votes will be tallied and the results announced.

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