Quota Crisis: Fresh Challenge for Yediyurappa As Lingayats, Kurubas & Other Castes Vie for Reservation
It seems there is a competition to be backward these days in Karnataka, analysts say. Many upper and intermediary castes are vying for reservation or demanding that their quota category should be changed to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe. These agitations are gaining ground across the state, giving sleepless nights to already beleaguered chief minister BS Yediyurappa.
Panchamasalis, a major subsect among the Lingayats, among the most politically powerful and numerically one of the strongest communities, has launched a march to Bengaluru demanding that it be added to category 2A under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list. The Panchamasalis are thickly concentrated in the Mumbai-Karnataka region, which is a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Their march has already reached the state capital and it would culminate in a public rally in Bengaluru on Friday. The BJP rebel MLA and Panchamasali leader Basangouda Patil Yatnal and former Congress MLA Vijayanand Kashappanavar are leading the agitation with the support of some seers.
Realising that the protests may snowball into a major political storm, Yediyurappa has declared that it is not in his hands to give reservation and the Centre has to do that job. It has not gone down well with the agitators and they have served him an ultimatum, asking him to get this done after talking to the union government.
To blunt or dilute the burning issue, some Lingayat seers and leaders are demanding that the entire community should be declared OBC. Some alleged that people close to the CM are behind it.
The chief minister’s camp has been accusing the main opposition Congress of being behind the Panchamasali agitation and march to Bengaluru.
AP Basavaraju, a state Congress and Lingayat leader said that there was no Congress hand in it and it was being led by some community leaders.
“Earlier we wanted minority status for our community. It was opposed by none other than Yediyurappa. If he had agreed to that, there would not be any trouble for him now,” Basavaraju said.
To complicate matters further, a few subsects of the Lingayats like Beda Jangams are now demanding SC status.
The reservation demand is not restricted only to the Lingayats. The Kurubas (shepherds) who are now OBCs are demanding Scheduled Tribe (ST) status for themselves. Several BJP leaders including senior minister KS Eshwarappa himself is backing such a move, openly embarrassing the chief minister.
Some in the Congress see it as an attempt by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to diminish the clout of former CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah, who is considered the undisputed leader of the Kurubas.
Both the BJP and RSS have dismissed such charges as baseless. Some argue that it was originally Siddaramaiah’s idea.
These demands have unnerved the castes which are already enjoying the benefits of reservation. The STs are opposing the inclusion of Kurubas into their fold, claiming it will deprive the real STs of all opportunities and political representation.
Several OBCs are also opposing the Lingayat demand for backward caste status, claiming Lingayats are the most powerful caste and they don’t need any reservation at the cost of many other much poorer and more backward castes.
The BJP high command in New Delhi is closely monitoring the developments and their political implications. Arun Singh, BJP national general secretary and incharge of Karnataka, has held several rounds of meetings with Yediyurappa and other senior leaders of the party.