Decoding Karnataka’s Caste Conundrum: Why BJP Asked Yediyurappa To Put Announcement Of OBC Status To Lingayats On Hold

by Harsha Bhat - Dec 8, 2020 01:10 PM
Decoding Karnataka’s Caste Conundrum: Why BJP Asked Yediyurappa To Put Announcement Of OBC Status To Lingayats On HoldKarnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa and Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Snapshot
  • Given that the Centre made way for such cases by providing for a 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward in the general category, if Yediyurappa was allowed his way, it would sure stir a hornet’s nest.

    It would send a message to all the land-holding groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patels in Gujarat who could then make similar demands.

In yet another reminder of the Centre’s hold on the scheme of things in the state, Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is said to have been asked to hold his horses and make key decisions only after consulting party leaders.

Party’s national general secretary and Karnataka in-charge Arun Singh is said to have conveyed this to the 78-year-old Lingayat strongman at the meeting of the party’s core committee and executive committee in Belagavi during the weekend.

Yediyurappa, who had been making a spree of announcements about constitution of various community boards, allotting them funds, and stirring the caste equations in the state, has been asked to put all such major decisions on hold.

This message comes after the party’s central leadership intervened at the last moment and halted an announcement that would have changed the scheme of things in Karnataka politics.

A week ago, Yediyurappa was almost all set to announce the according of Other Backward Class (OBC) status to his largest voter base and home community of Lingayat-Veerashaivas. An emergency cabinet meeting was also called, after which he was said to make the announcement.

But just then, he is said to have received a call from Home Minister Amit Shah asking him to discuss the matter with party's central leadership and obtain consent.

Ministers alarmed by the inclusion of the OBC tag agenda in the cabinet meeting are said to have alerted the central leadership.

While this had Yediyurappa deferring the announcement, it nevertheless sent a strong message to his loyalists and community that he at his end had made all attempts to include the Lingayats in the central OBC list, a demand that has been on for almost two decades, while the party had tied his hands.

On the optics front thus, the tallest standing Lingayat leader, talks of whose replacement have been doing the rounds for many months now, has gained brownie points with this plea to include all sub-sects of the community under the OBC tag.

He had recently also announced the setting up of the Veerashaiva Lingayat Development Corporation with a grant of Rs 500 crore. While it was seen by some as a way to silence ‘Kannada’ groups that took offence to the setting up of a Maratha Development Corporation recently, in the larger context, this was seen as a move to reiterate his standing as the leader of the largest voter base in the state.

Although, considering the 1.2 crore population of Lingayats, the funds would be, and were also ‘called out‘ by opposition leaders as, token and dismal.

This comes at a time when the party’s internal bickering is at its peak — with leadership replacement talks on one hand and the accusations of his son B Y Vijayendra’s high handedness and ‘super CM’ behaviour on the other. The internal strife is compounded by the unhappiness of party loyalists, who are said to have been snubbed over preference to defectors. Add to this the long pending cabinet rejig and the complaints of ad hoc appointment of Yediyurappa’s chosen ones to various boards and corporations in the state.

Amidst all this, the proposed OBC tag would have repercussions on the state's political scenario. It would not fare well for the Centre too, given the possibility of similar demands from other ‘powerful’ communities across the country. It would also shrink the share of existing OBC communities in the reservation quota.

Lingayats being an umbrella term, many sub-sects of the community, like the Madiwala Lingayats, Kumabara Lingayats etc, already have reservations.

The present move would entail many land-holding sects also procuring the central OBC tag.

Two issues arise if this demand is met — the land-holding agricultural sub-sects within Lingayats also get reservation in the state under 3B. But at the Central level, land holding communities like these haven’t been granted central OBC status.

Given that the Centre made way for such cases by providing for a 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward in the general category, if Yediyurappa was allowed his way, it would sure stir a hornet’s nest.

It would send a message to all the land-holding groups like the Marathas in Maharashtra and Patels in Gujarat who could then make similar demands.

Caste appeasement has been the way of Karnataka politics for decades now and with the battle for the heir to the tallest standing leader of the state on, it was only expected that he woo back his staunch supporters.

As a political analyst said, this is similar to what former prime minister H D Deve Gowda achieved for his lineage in 1996-1997 with the inclusion of the Vokkaligas in the OBC category. Since then, the Lingayats too have been demanding a similar status.

In terms of his political timeline, this move could sure have won the goodwill of the community, especially in the context of party factions making attempts to prop other leaders as representatives of the Lingayat community. Like it won the Vokkaliga voter loyalty for the Gowdas, ensuring the ‘family’ the support of the second largest community in the state for almost two decades to follow, this move would have earned the BSY clan similar goodies, or so it seems.

(Like its previous move of floating the Golla Development Corporation, then renamed Kadu Golla to reap electoral benefits in the Sira bypolls where the community has the second largest voter base, after the Kunchatiga Vokkaligas).

All of this should be seen against the backdrop of:

-one, the Kurubas demanding ST status
-two, the SCs and STs seeking expansion of their respective quotas
-three, the BJP’s attempts to prop its leaders as the face of communities hitherto represented by opposition parties
-four, the gram panchayat elections are around the corner
-five, the fact that BJP has already broken into the fort of the JD(S) and now has mission ‘ahinda’ an acronym for Dalits, marginalised and backward classes in the state — groups that are seen as the Congress’ stronghold.


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