The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) poll pitch of “double-engine sarkara” is all set to be the highlight of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s rally in Karnataka’s Mandya on Friday, 30 December.
On the eve of Amit Shah’s rally, the Basavaraj Bommai-led state government made two big announcements at the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai announced that the Central Water Commission had approved Karnataka’s Kalasa-Banduri project’s Detailed Project Report (DPR).
The nod comes barely months ahead of the Karnataka Assembly polls. It is expected to allow Karnataka to begin the tender process for works related to the Kalasa-Banduri drinking water project — a bone of contention between Karnataka and Goa.
Drawing water from the two tributaries of the Mahadayi river was the BJP’s poll promise ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections.
Later in the day, another big announcement came when the government declared its decision to change the reservation category of the Panchamasali Lingayat and Vokkaliga communities.
The decision to enhance reservation for the Panchamasalis and Vokkaligas came barely hours before Amit Shah was set to address a massive rally in the Vokkaliga heartland of Mandya.
This election, the BJP is ensuring a special focus on the old Mysuru region — a Vokkaliga bastion where it doesn’t have a strong foothold.
Karnataka creates 2C and 2D categories
In the Cabinet meeting held on the last day of the Karnataka Assembly’s winter session, the government decided to create the 2C and 2D reservation categories under Other Backward Classes.
The move is intended to accommodate Vokkaligas and Panchamasalis, sub-sects of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat and Lingayat communities, respectively.
The state’s Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs JC Madhuswamy told reporters, “In principle, the state government has accepted the interim report of the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes, where the 3A and 3B categories have been converted into 2C and 2D. All castes under 3A and 3B will be moved to 2C and 2D.”
Currently, reservation in Karnataka is categorised as follows:
- Scheduled Castes: 15 percent
- Scheduled Tribes: 3 percent
- Cat 1: 4 percent
- Cat 2A: 15 percent
- Cat 2B: 4 percent
- Cat 3A: 4 percent
- Cat 3B: 5 percent.
The Assembly on Monday passed a bill to hike SC and ST reservation by 6 percent, but it is yet to become a law.
Communities seek clarity
“The quota for these two new categories will be allocated after finalising the reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWSes). However, we will neither disturb nor touch the quota allocated for 117 communities under the 2A or 2B category,” stated Madhuswamy.
The 2A category provides quota to backward classes in Karnataka while, 2B gives quota to Muslims.
“The Union government will make the 103rd constitutional amendment to increase the reservation above 50 percent. After finalising the quota for EWS, the remaining reservation percent will be accorded to 2C and 2D categories,” reiterated Madhuswamy.
“The quota will be decided based on the proportion of the population of both the communities,” said Karnataka Minister for Industries Murugesh Nirani, an influential leader from the Panchamasali Lingayat community.
Appealing to the communities not to celebrate the government decision, All India Lingayat Panchamasali Mahasabha president Vijayananda Kashappamavar told reporters, “We demanded that the government include Panchamsalis in the 2A category, which has a 15 percent quota. I appeal to the people of the sect not to celebrate. I believe the government will give us the demanded quota for the sect.”
He added: “We had information that the government would announce a new category for the sect. The pontiffs and leaders of the sect will chair a meeting on the government decision and announce our stand on this.”
With no clarity on the reservation share yet, the communities remained sceptical.
Bommai praises Kalasa-Banduri nod
Bommai told reporters that the Union government’s nod to the Kalasa Banduri project DPR was a big win not only for the BJP government but also for the farmers of North Karnataka.
“The state government submitted DPR to the Centre in November. This was a longstanding demand of the people of at least four districts of North Karnataka,” said a smiling Bommai.
The project aims to draw 2.18 TMC from Banduri and 1.72 TMC from Kalasa for drinking-water purposes in the parched districts of North Karnataka.
Congress claims victory
The approval for the Kalasa-Banduri project DPR came just in time to take the sheen out of the Congress’ “Mahadayi Jalandolana” rally over the issue.
The Congress scheduled a mass rally on 2 January, 2023, at the Nehru Stadium in Hubballi to rake up the issue of Mahadayi waters.
Congress leaders like AICC general secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala claimed that the call for mass agitation forced the Union government to relent.
The 2nd Jan,2023 Mahadayi Water Rally of @INCKarnataka at Nehru Stadium, Hubli has finally woken up Modi Govt from its deep slumber, after 8 years of being in power.
This is too little, too late.
Kannadigas, especially of Belagavi, Hubli-Dharwad won’t pardon BJP’s betrayal.
— Randeep Singh Surjewala (@rssurjewala) December 29, 2022
Lashing out at the Congress, Bommai said: “When the Siddaramaiah government was at the helm in the state, it submitted an affidavit to the tribunal that it would not utilise the allocated water and had built a wall between the interlinking canal. This shows the commitment of the then Congress government, which was in power from 2013 to 2018, on implementing the Kalasa-Banduri Nala project.”
He added: “This drinking water project will benefit as many as 13 talukas of North Karnataka.”
Bommai also thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Water Resources Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat for giving a green signal for the project.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Coals and Mines and Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said about the project: “This will benefit the people of Dharwad, Belagavi, Gadag, and Bagalkot. The state government has put a lot of effort into getting this project approved by the Union government.”