It's Raining Caste-based Boards in Karnataka, Lingayats Latest to be Rewarded by BSY; Experts Fume

Karnataka CM Yediyurappa at a press conference. (PTI file photo)

Karnataka CM Yediyurappa at a press conference. (PTI file photo)

Public opinion is divided over the setting up of caste-based boards for political gains. Some are welcoming it, while others are arguing the move will further divide society.

D P Satish

It is raining caste development boards and corporations in Karnataka. After setting up Kaadu Golla Development Corporation and Maratha Development Board, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa has issued an order to set up a Veerashaiva - Lingayat Development Corporation with immediate effect.

Public opinion is divided over the setting up of caste-based boards and corporations for political gains. Some are welcoming it, while others are arguing the move will divide society further on caste lines.

The Kaadu Golla Development Corporation was set up with an eye on Sira by-elections which the BJP won. The Gollas live in sizable numbers in the area and the BJP believes they voted for the party after the corporation was constituted.

Keeping an eye on the Basavakalyana Assembly by-elections, Yediyurappa announced setting up of a Maratha development board with an initial funding of Rs 50 crore. A large number of people belonging to the Maratha community live in the constituency, which is going to by-polls soon.

The creation of a Maratha development board has angered Kannada activists who have threatened a Karnataka Bandh in protest against the government’s “appeasement policies”. It has now become a hot potato for the chief minister, as it involves language pride and sentiments.

After these two corporations were constituted, some Lingayats, who constitute 16% of the state’s population, have started demanding a separate body to look after the community’s welfare. Yediyurappa, himself a Lingayat and also considered the most powerful leader of the caste, then passed an order to set up a corporation with immediate effect.

However, unlike other minor caste development boards or corporations, the Lingayat Development Corporation has triggered a controversy. Vokkaligas, the second-most powerful caste after the Lingayats, are now demanding corporation for themselves.

SR Vishwanath, senior BJP MLA and CM’s political secretary, has said Vokkaligas also deserve a corporation on the lines of the one created for the Lingayats.

While most Lingayat leaders and religious heads have welcomed a corporation serving the interests of their caste, some within the community have expressed displeasure over it.

Siddalinga Swamy, seer of a highly influential Siddaganga Mutt at Tumkur, has questioned the rationale behind setting up boards and corporations for every caste. Speaking to media, he said that it would set a bad precedent. Instead, he has asked the government to help the poor belonging to all castes and religions.

Senior Congress leader MB Patil, who has led a movement for a separate Lingayat religion, has termed BSY’s decision as a mere political gimmick that will serve no purpose in the end. Patil has demanded 16% reservation for the Lingayats on the lines of Maratha reservation in neighbouring Maharashtra.

“Even if the state government allocates Rs 1,000 crore to the Lingayat Development Corporation, it would be a small amount, because the community is so large. I ask Yediyurappa to allocate at least Rs 5,000 crore for the body,” Patil said.

Karnataka Congress Working president and a powerful Lingayat leader Ishwar Khandre has welcomed the decision. However, he said that the corporation was being set up keeping the by-elections in mind.

Some allege that most of the boards and corporations serve no real purpose and just remain on paper with no powers and no funding to take up caste welfare works.

Karnataka has already set up Brahmin and Arya Vaishya Development Corporations for the upper castes. More than 100 castes come under Backward Classes Development Corporation.

Setting up of caste-based boards and corporations will open a Pandora’s Box, further dividing the society on caste lines, fear some experts. Neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has over 60 caste corporations and their number is still growing.

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