Bommai shifts Muslims from backward classes to EWS to raise quota for Vokkaligas, Lingayats


Bengaluru: The BJP government in Karnataka Friday decided to remove religious minorities from the backward classes list, under which they got 4 per cent reservation, and redistributed the quota among Lingayats and Vokkaligas, and other groups.

The minorities, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said, will instead get reservation under the 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections (EWS). The decision only affects Muslims since they were the sole religious minority in the given category of the backward classes list, 2B. 

The Lingayats and Vokkaligas have been demanding increased reservation benefits. The move comes just ahead of the state assembly elections, where the BJP is seeking to draw the Vokkaligas to its fold and assuage the anger in certain sections of the powerful Lingayat community over the removal of B.S. Yediyurappa as chief minister in 2021, and the ongoing agitation by the Panchamasalis. 

CM Bommai announced the decision in a media briefing after his government’s last cabinet meeting before the election, saying it will only enhance opportunities for religious minorities. 

“Constitutionally, they have said it very simply. Those castes which are not under SC/ST, OBC reservation, other than that, everyone else can be under economically weaker section,” he said in Bengaluru. 

“From a 4 per cent pool, they (religious minorities) can now avail of 10 percent. But the conditions are the same. There are economic criteria here (backward classes list) and there are economic criteria there (EWS).”

The decision was criticised by former CM Siddaramaiah of the Congress, who is also the leader of the opposition in the assembly, alleging “malice to create animosity between communities”. 

“The 4 per cent reservation given to Muslims in the backward classes group (2B) has been allocated to Vokkaligas and Lingayats. By stealing from one and giving to another, there is malice to create animosity between communities by @BJP4Karnataka,” he tweeted

New categorisation

Under the new decision, the 2B classification has been done away with, and its 4 per cent quota equally distributed to categories 2C & 2D, categories carved out earlier this year. 

The Bommai government had in mid-January decided to do away with categories 3A (Vokkaligas & others) as well as 3B (Lingayats & others) under the list — which have a reservation of 4 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively — and reclassified them as 2C and 2D, with the same constituent communities and quota.

Now, the newly carved categories will each get 2 per cent additional reservation.  

The Panchamasalis, a subsect of the Lingayats, have said they will have to study the decision and will offer a response Saturday morning.

The state government has also decided to implement internal reservation for various caste groups — or reservation for groups that constitute larger groups like the Scheduled Castes (SCs) — as part of its “review”. 

Bommai said the government had formed a committee that had submitted its report. But since there were many complex issues, another cabinet sub-committee was formed under state law minister J.C. Madhuswamy, he added. 

“This cabinet sub-committee, after much deliberation, has come to a conclusion that under the existing SC reservation, everyone should get justice…in proportion to their population and their status,” Bommai said.

According to Article 341(2) of the Constitution, the SC community has been divided into four groups, Bommai said, adding that based on the sub-committee’s recommendations, internal reservation will be given to the four groups. 

Under this, SC (Left) will get 6 per cent, SC (Right) will get 5.5 per cent, ‘touchables’ will get 4.5 per cent, and others will get 1 per cent, Bommai added. 

Bommai also said that it will send these recommendations to the central government for approval, as it will the sub-committee’s recommendations for including communities like Kadu Kuruba and Jenu Kuruba under the Scheduled Tribes (STs) category.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

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