Just a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the giant statue of Bengaluru founder Nadaprabhu Kempegowda as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s push to woo the numerically dominant Vokkaligas in poll-bound Karnataka, powerful seers and other leaders from the community have now set a January 23 deadline for the government to increase reservation in jobs and education for them.
The demand is to raise the quota to 12%. The seers pointed out that although Vokkaligas comprise 16% of the state’s population, the reservation for the community is only 4%.
“We are giving this memorandum to the government through R Ashok; for now we have submitted this. Now we have a big question about what is next. We have already discussed it and have already set the date, January 23,” said Swami Nirmalananda, the powerful pontiff of Adichunchanagiri Mutt.
Recently, the state hiked the reservation for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities, thus crossing the 50% quota cap. This has opened a Pandora’s box with several communities now demanding reservations. The Congress has hinted at supporting the fight, with its prominent Vokkaliga face, DK Shivakumar, putting his weight behind the agitation.
“January 23 is the deadline and the ministers have assured us that they are going to fight and give us justice. If there’s no option, we have to fight for it,” said Shivakumar, the Karnataka Congress president.
The Vokkaligas are the dominant land-owning community in the state who haven’t backed the BJP traditionally. It’s always the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress that have got the Vokkaliga vote, especially in the old Mysuru region. The BJP is keen on making inroads into this Vokkaliga-dominated belt. While Vokkaliga leaders like Shivakumar of the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) are trying to lure the community with the possibility of a Vokkaliga as the next chief minister, the BJP through its leaders from the community like Dr CN Ashwathnarayan and others has been trying to reach out to this bloc.
“We will certainly discuss this with the government and the chief minister. It’s their right to demand and this government is trying to meet the expectations of all communities in ensuring that social justice and equality are given to them. We are looking at it positively and doing what best we can do within legal premises,” said Karnataka health minister K Sudhakar, a Vokkaliga himself.
Surprisingly, former CM and Vokkaliga leader HD Kumaraswamy took a slightly contradictory stance, arguing that a reservation hike cannot be solely based on population as a parameter.
“I’ve never done caste politics, won’t even do it. When I became CM for the first time what I considered was one rich class and poor class. Here the question is what has happened to the lives of the communities, what is their financial status and education status? Which communities have developed in the field of education, and which communities have developed financially? They should decide on basis of these things, not just population," said Kumaraswamy
With Karnataka breaching the 50% reservation cap, the state government is under pressure to relook at the quota matrix in the state. The Panchamasali Lingayats want reservation under the 2A category of backward classes, while Kurubas want to be placed in the ST list instead of the existing OBC cluster.
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