In a letter addressed to The Quint, Jana Sena Party has said that the party which is founded by Tollywood actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan, has “never craved for using the sentiment of one particular community” and that it is “unfair and unjust” to refer to Kalyan as a Kapu leader.
What Jana Sena's Letter Says
The letter was in response to the article, 'AP District Renaming: Pawan Kalyan, Kapus & Why BR Ambedkar’s Name Stoked Arson,' published in The Quint on 25 May. The article had dwelt on consolidation of Kapu votes in Andhra Pradesh and elaborated how it would help Pawan Kalyan politically. The article was published a day after violence broke out in AP over the YSR Congress Party government’s decision to rename Konaseema after Dr BR Ambedkar.
Jana Sena further disagreed with the photo caption in the article which stated, “Jana Sena chief and actor Pawan Kalyan could benefit from the Kapu sentiment in Konaseema.” The letter read, “We would like to stress that the Jana Sena Party had never craved for using the sentiment of one particular community as it has always been striving to get unity and harmony among all the social communities in the society.”
The letter further states that YSRCP was responsible for the unrest in Amalapuram. The letter “vehemently disagreed” to the line in the article which said that “Pawan Kalyan, the Kapu leader, could indirectly benefit from the raging Kapu sentiment that found voice in the slogan 'Kotha Peru Vaddu, Patha Peru Muddu' (No to new name, Old name is gold)," stating “neither Pawan Kalyan nor Jana Sena has raised the slogan.” The party said that the article mentioning Kalyan as a “Kapu leader who has been trying to find a place for himself in Andhra Pradesh’s political spectrum” is a wrong statement and "we would like to enlighten you on this issue as he (Pawan Kalyan) always used to say that political power is not at all goal for Jana Sena Party.” Jana Sena Party has been appealing that Kurnool should be named after Dalit Chief Minister D Sanjeevaiah, the letter said.
The Quint Replies to the Letter
Nikhila Henry, The Quint’s South Bureau Chief who wrote the article, has responded to Jana Sena’s letter stating the article is a political analysis that dwells on political and caste equations in Andhra Pradesh in the backdrop of the violence that took erupted after the district renaming.
The article referring to Pawan Kalyan as a Kapu leader is justified because Pawan Kalyan has catered to the Kapu sentiment for political reasons. For example, in October 2021, Kalyan gave a call to Kapu and Kapu sub-castes, including Telaga and Ontari asking the community leaders to “unite against YSRCP.” In 2019, in East Godavari and West Godavari districts Jana Sena Party catered to the Kapu caste by fielding 16 Kapu leaders in 26 general seats. Of the five Lok Sabha seats in these districts where Jana Sena gave tickets, four of their candidates were Kapu leaders. It is to be noted that Amalapuram, a reserved constituency for Scheduled Castes, was part of East Godavari district earlier. Further, several Kapu leaders, even those from other parties, have supported Pawan Kalyan in the past, openly.
The article has suggested that Pawan Kalyan will stand to benefit from consolidation of Kapu sentiment in Amalapuram that raged against YSRCP, because in AP, apart from Kapu leaders in the ruling YSRCP and others in the TDP, Jana Sena’s Pawan Kalyan is the most prominent leader who is dependent on Kapu votes.
As per CSDS data, Jana Sena is a party that is dependent on Kapu votes. About 26 percent of the votes of Jana Sena are Kapu and other peasant caste votes, seven percent dominant caste votes and seven percent OBC votes. The CSDS data has also said that one percent of Jana Sena’s votes are SC votes. It is to be noted that Amalapuram town has about four lakh population of Kapus. Police officials from AP who had spoken to The Quint on the condition of anonymity, did say that in the subsequent arrests, majority of those accused (111 were arrested so far) in connection with Amalapuram violence were those affiliated to Jana Sena party, even though those from other parties, including Jana Sena’s alliance partner BJP, and even YSRCP were arrested.
It is accurate that Jana Sena and its leader Pawan Kalyan have been trying to find a place for himself and the party in AP’s political spectrum as the party is still in its struggling stage with Pawan Kalyan losing from two Assembly constituencies (Gujuwaka and Bhimavaram) that he contested in the 2019 Assembly elections. Jana Sena’s alliance with the BJP is expected to help the party, even as the BJP has not entirely bought the idea of fielding Kalyan as the CM candidate for 2023 so far. It is a stretch to think that founding a political party and contesting elections has nothing to do with wanting to be in power.
However, it is true that Jana Sena Party has been trying to play down its Kapu support because in pure political terms, the party’s strong Kapu support has been alienating other communities from joining it, analysts have noted. The article 'AP District Renaming: Pawan Kalyan, Kapus & Why BR Ambedkar’s Name Stoked Arson' has drawn attention to the above mentioned facts and their impact on the violence that broke out it AP. In the article the effort was to analyse the strands of caste politics in AP. Based on the above-mentioned political scenarios, The Quint’s article is well grounded.