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OBC Tag for Lingayats: BSY Defers Move at Last Minute After BJP Counsels Restraint

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. (File photo)

Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. (File photo)

CM BS Yediyurappa seems to have faced opposition from within his Cabinet to take the proposal forward, as he belongs to this dominant community that has always been his steady and reliable votebank.

Deepa Balakrishnan

The Karnataka Cabinet on Friday shelved its proposal to recommend an OBC status for the Lingayat community, though it was slated for approval during the day.

Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa seems to have faced opposition from within his Cabinet to take the proposal forward, as he belongs to this dominant community that has always been his steady and reliable votebank.

While there was a buzz that the state was prevailed upon to drop this issue from the agenda by the party's central high command, there was no confirmation of that. This comes amid whispers that the high command is not too happy with Yediyurappa's functioning, specially with his family's alleged interference in governance.

The CM had initially called a press conference but cancelled it after this key subject was dropped from the agenda. Law Minister JC Madhuswamy, who briefed the media, said they merely wanted the CM to defer any decision on this subject as it had to be studied more deeply.

"We... Some ministers... We did not go against him. We wanted him to defer (the move). We wanted him to study the subject more. This has to be certified by an anthropologist, as to why it deserves an OBC tag. We have to give all this justification through the state backward castes commission. There we have to prove what is their literacy rate, what is their income, what is their agriculture status. How many are artisans, how many are agricultural labourers, how many land holdings they have..." Madhuswamy said.

He also said there are many sub-communities that have been waiting for recognition as OBCs, the same recognition for Lingayats would have evoked a controversy. Lingayats are the single-most dominant community in Karnataka, and also form a bulk of the BJP's votebank.

He further said, "Yes, we are doing politics. We may be dominant in Karnataka. But we are not bigger than Jats in India. They are treated as OBCs... I have to go out and answer why my community is left out. This is a major community. Everyone is not rich. Everyone is not doing well in the state... There are poor people in this and other communities."

Three years ago, there was a move by the earlier Siddaramaiah-led Congress government to recommend minority status for the Lingayats as this sect identified itself as non-Hindu believers of Saint Basaveshwara, along the lines of Jainism or Buddhism.

The move at that time had backfired too, in fact leading to deep divisions within the community, ultimately costing the Congress any chance at a re-election.

The proposal to move for an OBC status has been there since 1994, but the timing of pushing for it now has raised eyebrows.

Last week, the government announced the setting up of a 'Veerashaiva-Lingayat Development Board,' while also granting Rs 500 crore for its functioning. To move for an OBC tag additionally is being seen as either an overdoing of love for the chief minister's community or a last-ditch effort to further consolidate his hold over the sect in case of any moves to dethrone him as chief minister.


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