Bommai dismissed rumours of senior BJP leader V Somanna joining Congress as mere speculations I File Photo

Karnataka’s BJP govt in a tight spot amid clamour for more quotas

While the Bommai government is preparing ground to pacify the Panchamasalis, its key vote bank, by yielding to their demand, it is also feeling the heat from communities that are demanding inclusion in the 2A category

The BJP, which has robustly fuelled its electoral machinery with communal politics, is in a bit of a fix in Karnataka. There, communal politics has been dwarfed by ‘reservation politics’ to such an extent that the party is truly perturbed in the run-up to the Assembly elections, slated for 2023.

In damage control mode, the Basavaraj Bommai-led BJP government is preparing ground to pacify its critical vote bank — Lingayat sub-sect Panchamasalis — by yielding to its demand in some way or the other.

At the same time, the government is feeling the heat from the communities that are demanding inclusion in the 2A category. If anything goes wrong, it may add to the tidy pile of challenges that Bommai is already facing, what with elections round the corner. 

Opinion: For BJP juggernaut, Modi is the engine and Hindutva is the fuel

On Thursday (December 22), Panchamasali leaders held a protest rally near Suvarna Vidhana Soudha. Jayaprakash Hegde, the Backward Class Commission chairman, met Bommai to hand over an interim report regarding the fulfilment of the demand of Lingayat Panchamasali community, following which the CM held discussions with legal experts about the report.

2A status to Panchamasalis on December 29?

Later, BJP MLA Basangouda Patil Yatnal, who led the protests, announced that Bommai had assured to give the 2A status to Panchamasalis on December 29.

Panchamasalis protest
Last week, Panchamasali leaders held a protest rally near Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi over their reservation demands. Image: Twitter

“The CM has told me that the interim report mentions giving the 2A category to the Panchamasali community and the government has agreed to it. The CM has said that he will study the report and call for an all-party meeting on December 28 to table this in the Assembly and, subsequently, announce it.”

Also read | Vote magnets: For BJP, Hanuman is in South what Ram is in North

Addressing the media, Yatnal also warned Bommai not to be adventurous in giving 2A reservation to the Panchamasalis. Speaking at Hirebagewadi in Belgaum taluk, he said, “Let’s see what game Bommai is playing. If Bommai plays any game, he will face serious consequences.”

“It has been two years since they appealed for reservation. We have been listening to what he (the CM) has been saying all these days. He has told Hegde a thousand times to bring the report soon. Now, we think he is deliberately not telling the complete story in the interim report,” Yatnal said.

Opposition from Backward communities under 2A

However, Thursday’s developments attracted opposition from the backward communities under 2A. Karnataka state Backward Class Communities Association has opposed the government’s plan to add Panchamasalis in the 2A category. Its president KM Ramachandrappa has said that the communities that are developed educationally and socially shall not be included in the 2A category.

Also read: Karnataka: BJP fights for Cong’s Dalit pie with ‘internal reservation’ move

“The state has to reveal the findings of the study done by the Backward Class Commission after the socio-economic survey and the reservation has to be declared based on that report,” he said. If this development takes place, we will stage a statewide protest,” he warned.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda suggested that the state government must weigh the consequences of adding Panchamasali under 2A as it may cause problems to the communities that are already in that category. At the same time, he is batting for Kunchutiga, a Vokkaliga sub-sub-caste, to be included in the Central’s OBC list.

The Congress is also watching the developments. The move by the BJP will help the Opposition party to consolidate the backward class votes against the BJP as Panchamasalis’ inclusion in the 2A category will come in the way of the real backward communities claiming the benefits.

3C or 2C?

The 2A category has 104 castes while the 2B category includes Muslims. The 3A category has three communities, including Vokkaligas, and the 3B category has four castes, including Lingayats. The Kurubas and Edigas are the major stakeholders of 2A benefits. The other 99 smaller and poor communities lag behind when it comes to getting the benefits. Of these, shepherds who comprise about six per cent, are the largest caste in 2A. Kurubas and Edigas have started demanding their inclusion in the ST category through rallies and padayatras.

Activists state that injustice is being done to Panchmasali youth and women in the fields of employment and education as they have been deprived of opportunities. About thirty-four Veerashaiva Lingayat sub-castes are already enjoying 2A reservation rights, but there is no reservation facility for the Panchamasalis, who have been engaged in agriculture in the northern part of Karnataka state. Panchmasalis are said to inhabit some parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. As compared to other states, the number of Panchmasalis is relatively more in Karnataka.

Lingayats to get more facilities?

At the same time, the 3B category (5 per cent reservation) includes Lingayats. If Panchamasalis, who comprise 60 percent of the Lingayat community, are moved to 2A category (15 percent reservation), the remaining Lingayats in the 3B will get more benefits. The Panchamasalis, on the other hand, will benefit under 2A. This will help the Veerashaiva Lingayat community as a whole get more benefits. Sources in the government said that Bommai’s strategy is to give more benefits to the Lingayat community as a whole as it is considered to be the ‘vote bank’ for the BJP.

However, the government knows about the reaction if the Panchamasalis are included in the 2A category. It is thinking of having a separate category for them by creating 2C or 3C and sanctioning more percentage of reservations as it has done for the SCs and the STs recently. The Bommai government hiked the SC reservation from 15 to 17 per cent and the reservation for the STs from 3 to 7 per cent through an ordinance. But it has to get the shelter of the 9th Schedule with the help of the union government and it is only then that it can be implemented in reality. It is the government’s prerogative to add 2C or 3C within the categories, but increasing the percentage of reservations has to get the nod from the Union government to fall under the 9th schedule.

Vokkaligas press for hike in reservation

The Karnataka government has already recommended to the Centre that Kunchitiga, a sub-sect of Vokkaliga community, be included in the Central List of the OBC. Now, the Vokkaliga community has also pressed for an increase in the reservations from 4 to 12 per cent in the 3A category. The Ministers of the Vokkaliga community met the CM, demanding an increase in the reservation rate for the Vokkaliga community to 12%. Also, they asserted that the community people who are living in the urban areas should be included in the 10% reservation given to the economically weaker sections.

Also read: 2023 Karnataka polls: BJP goes all out to woo Vokkaligas and OBCs

Bommai has instructed the Backward Classes Commission to submit a report in this regard.  The Vokkaliga leaders have demanded an increase in reservations by January 23.  Vokkaliga seer Nirmalanandanatha Swamiji of Adichuchanagiri Mutt, Nanjavadutha Swamiji of Pattanayakanahalli Mutt, Kumara Chandrasekharanath Swamiji of Vishwa Vokkaligara Maha Sansthan participated in a recent meeting over the hike.

Based on legal merits

Bommai, in his statement, said that he is to study the interim report and take a decision on legal merits. However, the CM, who headed the cabinet meeting on Thursday, did not take up this issue for discussion.

According to sources, the government has to take a favourable decision as Panchamasalis are the deciding factors in around 60 constituencies in the north Karnataka region. As Congress is eagerly waiting for the government to err in the matrix for caste reservation, the BJP wants to make the most of the situation.

Earlier, the details on the economic and social standards of various communities were given in the Justice Nagamohan Das report. It has been 10 years since the report of the Sadashiva Commission regarding the internal reservation. The report of the Kantharaj Commission is in the commission itself. It has not reached the government level. But Panchamasali hinted at fulfilling the reservation demand of the community by saying that legal action would be taken on the interim report of the Karnataka State Permanent Backward Classes Commission. There is no need to recommend the Centre if a separate category is created and a reservation is granted; it will be valid in court. The commission requested the government to tread carefully, a legal expert said.

Read More
Next Story