After the Nitish Kumar-led Bihar government made its caste census public, Karnataka’s Congress government is under severe pressure to release the Karnataka State Commission for Backward Classes’ (KSCBC) socio-economic and educational census report — its own caste census report.
In the run-up to the 2023 Karnataka Assembly polls, Congress leaders — including current Chief Minister Siddaramaiah — had promised they would make the KSCBC report public if they were voted to power. Siddaramaiah had reiterated the assurance in an interview to South First ahead of Karnataka Assembly polls.
Though the chief minister, after taking the oath of office, gave assurances in July of accepting the commission’s report at the earliest, no concrete development has been witnessed in the matter.
The current situation
Several Congress leaders have demanded that the government release the report while there is opposition from within too. On the other hand, the BJP in the Opposition is also against the release of the caste census report.
It may also be noted that former AICC chief and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi has raised concerns over the Union government not undertaking a caste census.
He has been demanding that the Union government conduct a caste census at the earliest to provide justice and proper benefits to members of Backward Classes (BCs) and oppressed communities. His own party’s government in Karnataka, however, is dilly-dallying on accepting the report and making it public.
Meanwhile, several senior Lingayat and Vokkaliga leaders aligned with the Congress government in Karnataka are said to be against the release of this caste census report.
Experts believe that the release of the report — officially characterised as a socio-economic and education census — might have a huge social and political impact in Karnataka.
Though the KSCBC, under the headship of Justice H Kantharaj, carried out the socio-economic survey in 2018, the state government has delayed accepting it for various reasons, the chief of which is political.
The commission is likely to submit a detailed and final report on the matter by the end of November, claimed officials.
Demand for report
As the Bihar government made the caste census public on 2 October, several Congress leaders in Karnataka demanded that the government make the KSCBC’s census report public at the earliest.
Ministers Satish Jarkiholi, B Nagendra, and KH Muniyappa said the report must be made public. Even Congress veteran BK Hariprasad demanded that the government release the report.
Minister for Public Works Satish Jarkiholi told reporters on Tuesday, 3 October: “It is good that the Bihar government has released the caste census. We have also readied the report as well. The chief minister has to decide on this. There is also pressure on the government to release the report. It will be good if that happens.”
Jarkiholi, an influential Scheduled Tribe (ST) leader, added: “If it is made public, the budgetary allocations and other measures — including for education — for various communities can be decided. I hope that the report is released at the earliest.”
On why there was a delay in releasing the report, he pointed out: “We couldn’t release it last time because of the elections. We have just assumed power again. The discussion is already happening at the government level. It should be released soon because over ₹200 crore was spent to carry out the socio-economic survey.”
In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Congress MLC BK Hariprasad called the Bihar government’s caste census report historic.
He said: “The government’s historic move to release the caste census report in Bihar, ruled by the ‘INDIA’ alliance, is commendable.”
“ಇಂಡಿಯಾ”ಮೈತ್ರಿ ಕೂಟದ ಆಡಳಿತವಿರುವ ಬಿಹಾರ ರಾಜ್ಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಜಾತಿಗಣತಿ ವರದಿ ಬಿಡುಗಡೆ ಮಾಡಿದ ಸರ್ಕಾರದ ಐತಿಹಾಸಿಕ ನಡೆ ಅಭಿನಂದನೀಯ
ಹಿಂದುಳಿದ,ಶೋಷಿತವೂ ಸೇರಿದಂತೆ ಎಲ್ಲಾ ವರ್ಗಗಳ ಉನ್ನತಿ ಹಾಗೂ ಅಭಿವೃದ್ಧಿಗೆ ಜಾತಿಗಣತಿ ವರದಿ ಸಹಾಯ ಮಾಡುತ್ತದೆ ಎಂಬ ವೈಜ್ಞಾನಿಕ ಧೋರಣೆ ಕಾಂಗ್ರೆಸ್ ಪಕ್ಷದ್ದಾಗಿದೆ.#casteCensus
— Hariprasad.B.K. (@HariprasadBK2) October 3, 2023
He added: “The scientific attitude of the Congress is that the caste census report helps in the upliftment and development of all classes, including the BCs and exploited communities. Our leader Rahul Gandhi has raised his voice for the disclosure of the caste census report and the injustice meted out to the OBCs.”
Minister for Social Tribe Welfare Department B Nagendra told South First: “The discussions are underway at the chief minister’s level. We are also pressuring the government to release the socio-economic census report at the earliest. However, it is being delayed due to various reasons. I will not like to say anything more on the matter. The chief minister is the ideal person to speak on this.”
Report yet to be submitted
In his first tenure as the chief minister, Siddaramaiah took a historic decision by commissioning the socio-economic and education census in 2015, entrusting the responsibility to the then chief of the commission, Justice H Kantharaj.
The committee completed the census in 2018. Since then, the government has not shown any interest in accepting it and making it public.
“The report has not been accepted as it was neither signed nor validated by the then member-secretary of the commission. As per the Backward Classes Act, the member-secretary’s validation on the report is mandatory,” claimed KSCBC officials.
KSCBC Chairman Jayaprakash Hegde told South First: “This socio-economic report has far more details than the caste information of an individual. This report includes the details of every household. From education qualification to profession to residential address, a lot of important information about every individual has been mentioned in the report. This is not just confined to caste census.”
On whether it would have any socio-economic or political impact in Karnataka, he said: “It does not come under my purview. Hence, I would not like to comment. We are collecting the required data and are expected to submit the detailed and final report by the end of November.”
Local media has said the report was allegedly leaked ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections. According to this leaked report, the Scheduled Castes (SCs) emerged as the largest community in terms of population, with 19 percent.
Muslims were the second largest with 16 percent, while Lingayats and Vokkaligas made up 14 percent and 11 percent of the population, respectively.
Why the delay?
Despite the Karnataka government conducting the survey way before the Bihar government, it has yet to receive and accept it.
On condition of anonymity, a Cabinet minister from the Kalyana Karnataka region told South First: “Discussions are underway at the chief minister’s level about the socio-economic and education census report. However, some senior Lingayat and Vokkaliga leaders within the government are strongly opposing its release.”
He explained: “Thus, it has become a big headache for the government to take a firm decision on the matter. We are demanding that the report be expected at the earliest, but some communities are opposing it. I strongly believe that the chief minister will not only accept it but release it at the earliest.”
The other main reason is that the census report did not get signed or validated by the member secretary of the commission.
Political commentator Ashok Chandaragi told South First: “Karnataka is the first state since independence to conduct a caste census. This report is expected to have a huge socio-economic and political impact in Karnataka.”
He added: “If the commission’s report is made public, the demand for high and political reservations will rise from the majority communities. The Lingayat and Vokkaliga leaders are said to be vehemently opposing the release of this report.”
Chandaragi also said: “As per the reports, Dalits, minorities and other backward classes have a higher population than the dominant Lingayats and Vokkaligas in the state. This report will create havoc in Karnataka.”
Siddaramaiah blames HDK
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah blamed JD(S) Legislature Party leader and former chief minister HD Kumaraswamy for the delay in accepting and releasing the report. However, he also gave assurances of looking into the matter.
Siddaramaiah told reporters on Tuesday: “I am the one who ordered for the caste census and socio-economic survey to be carried out. H Kantharaj was then the chairperson of the KSCBC. I directed the Permanent Backward Class Commission to carry them out. The report was completed, but not by the end of our last tenure.”
He added: “After that, the Congress-JD(S) coalition government came to power and HD Kumaraswamy was the chief minister. G Puttaranashetty was then the BC welfare minister. Kumaraswamy didn’t take that report into consideration.”
It may be recalled that Siddaramaiah had given assurances of accepting the report in July.
He told reporters in Bengaluru on 2 July: “There are some technical glitches. We will definitely accept the report because we have to refer to it. The report is necessary for tabling the budget to know the population of each caste and also their socio-economic and political status.”
BJP opposes release of report
BJP leaders are vehemently opposing the release of the socio-economic and education census report.
Former minister and Malleswaram MLA Dr CN Ashwath Narayan told reporters in Bengaluru on Tuesday about the report: “It is not the right, appropriate, and progressive decision.”
He claimed: “When the national census was carried out in 2011, the Congress opposed a caste-based census. The Congress is politically motivated and is gearing up for this caste census after 75 years of Independence to create confusion in society.”
He added: “This shows how much the Congress is hungry for power. It wants to divide society and create animosity among communities.”
The BJP leader also said: “The Congress is trying to divide the community. It does not have any standing. Its statements and stands clearly show it can do whatever it wishes for its own selfish needs.”