Updated: March 12, 2021 8:11:05 am
THE KARNATAKA government has constituted a three-member commission headed by a retired high court judge to examine new demands for reservation from various caste groups in the state, effectively buying time for Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa to resolve the issue.
“As per the Cabinet decision to resolve the demands for reservation by various castes under constitutional and legal norms, a three-member committee is being constituted under the chairmanship of retired high court judge Subhash Adi,” Yediyurappa announced on Wednesday following the issuance order to constitute the committee.
The committee was constituted even as Yediyurappa has come under intense pressure from his own party member and MLA Basavaraj Patil Yatnal to decide on a demand for inclusion of the Panchamasali Lingayat community – a sub-sect of the Veerashaiva Lingayat community to which Yediyurappa also belongs – in the OBC quota of 15 per cent reservation in the state.
Yatnal and the Panchamsali Lingayats, who have been staging a protest in Bengaluru since February 21 after completing a 700-km march that began on January 14 in north Karnataka, had set a March 4 deadline for the chief minister to resolve their demand.
BJP MLA Yatnal has now demanded a statement by Yediyurappa on the Panchamasali Lingayat demand in the legislature by March 15 and has warned of turning the agitation into a hunger strike if no clarity is provided on the issue by the chief minister.
“If the government does not show the will to provide reservation as sought by the Panchamasali Lingayats, I will stage a dharna in the House and the protesters at Freedom Park will go on a hunger strike,” Yatnal said.
On Wednesday, after Yatnal called for government attention to the Panchamasali Lingayats’ demand in the state legislature, state Home Minister Basvaraj Bommai intervened to suggest that the government was enthused by a recent Supreme Court call for opinion from states on breaching the 50 per cent ceiling on quotas imposed by the SC itself in the Indira Sawhney case. He suggested the 50 per cent cap would have to be breached to facilitate the new quota demands.
The issue of demand for new quotas by various caste groups is being considered a political hot potato that is likely to scald the BJP politically in Karnataka if it meddles too much with quotas. The party central leadership has warned BJP MLAs who have emerged at the forefront of some of the agitations to steer clear of the reservation mine field.
Sources in the government said Yatnal, who is seen as attempting to emerge as an alternative leader to Yediyurappa among the Lingayats through the agitation, has remained defiant.
While the Panchamasali Lingayats are demanding inclusion in the OBC category to be eligible to avail 15 per cent reservation in government education and jobs, the entire Veerashaiva Lingayat community is also demanding OBC categorisation for 15 per cent reservation. The Kurubas are demanding inclusion in the Scheduled Tribe category, which currently has only 3 per cent reservation; the Valmiki Nayaks are demanding expansion of ST category quota from three to 7.5 per cent; and Vokkaligas, a dominant community, are also demanding OBC category quota.
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