Ahead of the 2023 Assembly elections, the Karnataka government led by Basavaraj Bommai is under pressure as the various communities approach it with reservation-related demands.
After the Panchamasali, a sub-sect of the Lingayats, launched a huge protest demanding reservation under Category 2A of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), it is the turn of the Vokkaligas, another influential and dominant community in the old-Mysuru region, to knock on the doors of the chief minister seeking a quota hike.
A delegation led by leaders of the Vokkaliga community, including Ministers R Ashok, Dr CN Ashwath Narayan and Dr K Sudhakar, submitted a memorandum to Bommai at Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi on Friday, 23 December.
They not only sought a hike in reservation from the existing 4 percent to 12 percent, but also wanted the inclusion of three sub-sects of the community — Kunchitiga, Bunt, and Reddy Vokkaliga — in the Centre’s OBC list.
In the memorandum, the Vokkaliga leaders contended that many students and youths of the community were not able to avail reservation benefits in education and employment as they have registered their caste as Kunchitiga Vakkaliga or Kunchitiga Vokkaliga.
What the memorandum says
“As the Kuchitiga Vakkaliga or Kunchitiga Vokkaliga castes are not listed under the 3A category, the tahsildars of few talukas are denying caste certificates to people of these communities,” the memorandum said.
“The Department of Anthropology of the University of Mysore has carried out a genealogical study on Kunchitigas and submitted a report to the state government. In its report, it is pointed out that the people from these communities are socio-economically and financially backward,” it added.
“Hence, it is considered that Kunchitiga is synonymous with Vokkaliga. Similarly, the Bunt and Reddy Vokkaliga communities, which fall under the state OBC list, must be included in the Centre’s OBC list,” urged the leaders of Vokkaliga community.
“Adichuchanagiri mutt pontiff Nirmalanandanatha and Rajya Vokkaliga Sangha have appealed the state government to accord reservation for the community in proportion to its population. Vokkaligas comprises around 16 percent of the population in the state,” Minister for Higher Education CN Ashwath Narayan told reporters after submitting memorandum to the chief minister.
ಒಕ್ಕಲಿಗ ಸಮುದಾಯದ ಮೀಸಲಾತಿ ಪ್ರಮಾಣ ಹೆಚ್ಚಿಸುವ ಕುರಿತಾಗಿ, ಸಮುದಾಯದ ಸಚಿವರು, ಶಾಸಕರ ಜತೆಗೂಡಿ ಮುಖ್ಯಮಂತ್ರಿ ಶ್ರೀ @BSBommai ಅವರಿಗೆ ಮನವಿ ಸಲ್ಲಿಸಲಾಯಿತು.
— Dr. Ashwathnarayan C. N. (@drashwathcn) December 23, 2022
“The community is entitled to only four percent reservation under Category 3A. There was a feeling within the community that it was not availing the reservation it deserved. Hence, we have appealed to the government to increase the reservation matrix for the community,” Ashwath Narayan added.
Vokkaligas are largely land-owning castes whose traditional primary occupation is agriculture.
CM seeks BC Commission report
After receiving the memorandum, Chief Minister Bommai directed the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes to submit a detailed report on the hike in quota for the Vokkaliga community.
“A delegation from Vokkaliga community met me and put forth a demand to hike reservation for their community in the wake of increase in the population as well as fulfilment of their aspirations in education and employment,” Bommai told reporters at Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi.
“The delegation has also submitted another memorandum seeking reservation for the communities such as Bunt and Reddy Vokkaligas. Also appealed for the inclusion of these two communities and Kunchatiga community in the centre’s OBCs list,” stated Bommai.
Bommai said: “Nirmalanandanatha Swami had held a meeting and submitted a memorandum seeking hike in quota for the Vokkaliga community. It has been forwarded to the Commission for Backward Classes.”
“However, the recommendation must come from the commission in accordance with the Constitution. The commission will conduct a study on socio-economic status of the community,” said Bommai, pointing out that the reservation would be accorded based on the commission’s report.
Under pressure as election approaches, the BJP government in Karnataka is walking a tightrope, trying not to antagonise any community.
Vokkaliga leaders want share of EWS pie
Meanwhile, the BJP’s Vokkaliga leaders, including Ministers Ashok, Araga Jnanendra and Ashwath Narayan, held a meeting on the reservation hike demanded by the pontiffs of the community. The leaders from the sub-sects of the community also attended the meeting at a private hotel in Belagavi on Thursday.
Speaking to the reporters, Ashok said: “The hike in reservation will help the poor Vokkaligas in availing education and jobs. The Kunchatiga Vokkaligas and Bunts, who are from Mangaluru region, are not in the Centre’s OBC list. It has to be approved in the state Cabinet and then recommendation will be made to the Union government.”
ಒಕ್ಕಲಿಗ ಸಮುದಾಯದ ಮೀಸಲಾತಿ ಪ್ರಮಾಣ ಹೆಚ್ಚಳದ ಕುರಿತು ಒಕ್ಕಲಿಗ ಸಚಿವರು ಹಾಗೂ ಶಾಸಕರ ಉಪಸ್ಥಿತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಳಗಾವಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆದ ಸಭೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಪಾಲ್ಗೊಂಡ ಕ್ಷಣ.
— Dr. Ashwathnarayan C. N. (@drashwathcn) December 22, 2022
“The existing four percent reservation for the community is being availed only by people residing in rural areas. The people dwelling in urban slums are being deprived of reservations,” Ashok contended.
“We have appealed to the government for the inclusion of urban Vokkaligas into the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) 10 percent reservation list. We have also demanded to hike the quota from existing four percent to 12 percent.”
Under current norms, only those sections that are not covered under existing reservations are eligible to avail quota in the EWS category.
Applauding the government for giving reservation hike to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs), Ashok said: “The state government-led by Bommai has achieved the feat of increasing the reservation for the SC/STs. The SC/STs will forever remember this work by the government. They also ensured that they will be with this government.”
“Similarly, If the quota is increased for the Vokkaligas, the community will be with this government. The legislators from the community are united. We have decided to hold a high-level meeting with pontiffs of the community on the matter on 4 January,” he added.
Yatnal opposes Vokkaliga demand
BJP leader and Bijapur City MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal is brimming with pride after Chief Minister Bommai reportedly assured him on granting Category 2A reservation to Panchamasali sect of the Lingayats. However, he has objections to the quota demand by the Vokkaliga leaders.
“We have the moral right to demand the quota hike because the Panchamaslis of Lingayats are the backbone of the BJP in North Karnataka. Similarly, (Minister) Ashok should ensure the party’s victory in 50 Assembly seats in the old-Mysuru region (the stronghod of JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda) — then we will consider his demand,” said Yatnal, stoking controversy.
“Their contribution to the party is meagre as only four people from the community get elected and four of them become ministers. We are not ready to listen to their stories,” fumed Yatnal.
Responding to this, Minister for Health and Family Welfare Sudhakar, another influential Vokkaliga leader, said: “I never expected this from a senior leader like Yatnal. Reservation should not be given to any community based on its political performance and dominance.”
“Quota must be given based on the socio-economic status of the community. Even the Panchamasali sect is said to be one of the dominant communities. They are also demanding reservation on socio-economic basis. Yatnal should have had a kind heart instead of objecting to our community’s demands,” Sudhakar lashed out.