With only six months left for the Lok Sabha polls, the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka is now determined to accept the revised Kantharaj Commission report. File photo

Pushed to act, Karnataka govt to table 2015 caste census shortly

With Bihar releasing caste census report, pressure is mounting on Siddaramaiah to accept Kantharaj panel recommendations

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With the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government releasing the report of a caste-based survey on Monday (October 2), pressure is now mounting on the Congress government in Karnataka to accept the caste census conducted in 2015 and table the same in the winter session of the state assembly.

The caste census is a major poll plank for the Congress in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections next year. The Siddaramaiah-led Congress government initiated the socio-economic survey, popularly known as ‘The Caste Census’ in 2015. Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission (KSBCC) headed by H Kantharaj conducted the survey.

Though the report was ready in 2015, the ruling Congress, hesitated to make the findings of the caste census public given strong opposition from legislators belonging to dominant Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities, cutting across party lines.

With only six months left for the Lok Sabha polls, the ruling Congress in Karnataka, especially Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, is now determined to accept the revised Kantharaj Commission report, regardless of the opposition from both dominant communities. Sources in the Congress clarified that the revised Kantharaj Commission report will be out by November.

Pleading anonymity, a senior minister in the government told The Federal that “the government is committed to accept the report at the earliest. In all probability, the report will be accepted by month-end. There is no chance of a delay in accepting the report and making the content public”.

Karnataka report on lines of Bihar

There seems to be a similarity between the caste census reports of Bihar and Karnataka. Just like Bihar, AHINDA (Acronym for Alpasankhyataru, Hindulidavaru Dalitaru-Minorities, Backward Class and Dalits) outnumber other castes in Karnataka.

According to leaked reports of the caste census, the Scheduled Castes form 19.5 per cent making them the largest entity followed by the Muslims at 16 per cent. The Lingayats and Vokkaligas make up 14 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively.

The caste-based survey report of Bihar released on Monday reveals that extremely backward classes (EBC) comprise 36.01 per cent of the population, the backward classes constitute 27.12 per cent and the general category 15.52 per cent of the covered population. Scheduled caste comprises 19.65 per cent and scheduled tribes 1.68 per cent of the population covered under the survey.

How caste census will help Congress

Another senior minister in the Siddaramaiah cabinet confessed that “the caste census report will help the party to secure more seats in the coming 2024 polls to Lok Sabha, as the AHINDA communities are the main support base”.

Though the BJP divided Dalit votes in the 2018 assembly elections and 2019 Parliamentary polls in Karnataka, the Dalits supported the Congress in the recent assembly polls as they were upset that the previous BJP government’s strategy of caste matrix failed to work in their favour. Even Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities were upset with the BJP government withdrawing reservation extended to the Muslim community and distributing the same to both the dominant communities.

However, another senior Congress leader, also an officer-bearer of the KPCC feels that it is not easy to accept the report in the changed political situation, where Lingayats are allegedly upset with the treatment meted out to them in the present Congress dispensation.

He also said that the Karnataka government is bound to accept the caste census report, as top Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Mallikarjun Kharge and others have made this their poll plank for the assembly elections to be held in five states by year-end and the Lok Sabha polls next year.

In an exclusive interview with The Federal, Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission Chairman K Jayaprakash Hegde said that the Commission is lending final touches to the revised Kantharaj Commission report and will submit the same by mid-November.

The five-member committee constituted by the Commission comprising Prof Abdul Azeez of the Institute for Social and Economic Change, renowned sociologist Prof Jogan Shankar, Director of Public Affairs Centre, Chaya K Degaonkar, Prof CM Lakshman, and C Kempaiah, former secretary of the Backward Classes Commission, is busy finalising the report.

Significance of report

It is important to note that Siddaramaiah-led the Congress government had commissioned the survey on coming to power in 2013. Interestingly, the state government conducted this socio-economic survey after nearly eight decades. It was earlier conducted in 1935. In 2017, the Congress government even extended the KSCBC chairman’s term and spent a whopping Rs 162 crore. The survey covered 1.36 crore households with a population of six crore.

Not socio-economic, but socio-educational survey

Jayaprakash Hegde refuses to refer to the report to be submitted to the government as a socio-economic survey and prefers to refer to it as a ‘socio-educational survey’ following the apex court’s constitutional bench upholding the validity of the 103rd amendment which introduced reservation for economically weaker sections in education and employment last year. The NDA government led by BJP brought the 103rd amendment to the Constitution in November 2022.

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