Karnataka chief minister BS Yediyurappa has landed himself in trouble after announcing Maratha Development Board. While pro-Kannada groups, Tulu speaking population of coastal Karnataka are agitating against this decision, over 25 castes/religion are demanding for their own board.
After the massive demand by dominant Veerashaiva Lingayat community, the chief minister announced a board for them too. Now another dominant caste – Vokkaligas — are also demanding for a board and likewise Kuruba, Valmiki, Kodava, Christian, Jain and other communities are also raising demand to create corporations for them.
Earlier this week, several pro-Kannada organisations staged a protest in Bengaluru demanding that government withdraw the Maratha board proposal.
“The government must withdraw the order to set up the Maratha Development Board by November 27, failing which we will stage a statewide stir and Karnataka bandh on December 5,” Kannada Okkuta president Vatal Nagaraj told during the protest.
Former Minister and BJP National General Secretary CT Ravi in defense has said that there is nothing wrong in setting up board for Marathas in Karnataka. “What is wrong in setting up Maratha development board? When Minority development authority was created, nobody had an issue, why now? In Karnataka Kannadigas are supreme, but nothing wrong in setting up a board for Maratha community,” he justified.
According to 2011 census, Marathi-speaking people are about 60% of the population in Belagavi district. The district has on many occasion witnessed clashes between Kannada and Maratha activists, due to a long-standing dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra over Belagavi's territory.
Kannada activists have always had an issue with Maharashtra as they see Marathas unjustly claiming their territory along the border areas, and are trying to establish their hegemony.
BSY’s move is seen as political appeasement as Belagavi is going for by-election following the death of former Union minister Suresh Angadi. The Basavakalyan Assembly seat fell vacant after the demise of Congress legislator B Narayan Rao. Basava Kalyan constituency has about 30,000 Maratha voters.
Reacting to CM’s decision, former chief minister and opposition leader Siddaramaiah has said that BS Yediyurappa is trying to lure voters before bypoll by setting up Maratha board. He condemned the act and also accused government of being anti-Karnataka.
Earlier, the Yediyurappa government had announced to set up a Kadugolla Development Corporation last month, just before the bypolls to the Sira and Raja Rajeshwari Nagar Assembly seats. The decision was seen as an effort to reach out to the Golla community voters in Sira.
After series of protests and criticism, the CM reacted by saying, “Maratha board is for Maratha community development and not for Marathi language development. Our government's priority is always for Kannadigas and Karnataka. Those who are protesting are politically motivated.”
However, the issue does not seem to come to halt as many other communities are demanding for new boards and Lingayats demanding for 16% reservation in government jobs. If the situation continue to be critical BS Yediyurappa may have to withdraw Maratha board proposal and it will surely affect them in coming by-elections for Belagavi Parliament constituency and Basava Kalyan legislative constituency.