A year after it was set up, the Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board this January launched two schemes aimed at brides from the community. The board has approval to launch a pilot scheme offering financial bonds of Rs 3 lakh to 25 Brahmin women who marry priests from an economically weak background and another offering Rs 25,000 each for the marriage of 550 women from economically weak families in the community.
The BJP government led by B S Yediyurappa set up the board in July 2020 with its first schemes being announced just last month. However, the idea was first proposed by his predecessor H D Kumaraswamy.
In the 2018 state budget, Kumaraswamy announced the constitution of Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board at a cost of Rs 25 crore. An agency to look after the interests of weaker sections of the community had been a long-pending demand of Brahmins in the state. A few month before his budget speech, Kumaraswamy, as the state JD(S) president, had promised members of the Brahmin community, which makes up about 4 per cent of the state’s population, he would address their demand for a Brahmin development authority if elected to power.
According to the website of Brahmin Development Board, the board is set up to help and uplift the Brahmin community and contribute to the overall growth of economically-backwards members in the community. “Karnataka State Brahmin Development Board (KSBDB) proposes to take up schemes featuring education, skill development, self-employment, development of basic amenities for the development of financially backward section of Brahmin community in the state,” says the website.
When the board was finally created by Yediyurappa, BJP leader H S Sachidananda Murthy was appointed its chairman. A party veteran, Murthy has over three decades served various roles in the party including from state secretary to part spokesperson and in-charge of Bangalore rural district.
The board has now launched two schemes.
According to Murthy, under the ‘Arundhati’ scheme, 550 Brahmin women from poor background will be given Rs 25,000 each for their marriage. Under the ‘Maitreyi’ scheme, a financial bond of Rs 3 lakh, which is to be used over three years, will be created for 25 women who marry Brahmin priests from poor backgrounds.
“Initially, the Maitreyi scheme was proposed for a woman who marries BPL Brahmin farmers or cooks or priests. However, during my tour across the state, I found that priests were economically very weak and we decided to launch the programme for their benefit to start with,” Murthy said.
The Maitreyi scheme will require the couples to stay married for three years to avail the entire bond of Rs 3 lakh. Instalments of Rs 1 lakh will be paid at the end of each year of the marriage, he said.
The board’s marriage assistance scheme is on the lines of the Shaadi Bhagya scheme launched by the Congress government in 2013 to provide Rs 50,000 for the marriage of women from economically weak minority families. Yediyurappa had then criticised the scheme saying it should be expanded to benefit the poor from all communities.
According to Murthy, Rs 14 crore has also been set aside to help students from poor Brahmin families in the form of scholarships, fees and providing training to those who have passed the preliminary stage of examinations such as the UPSC. To avail benefits of the schemes of the Brahmin Development Board, applicants have to certify that they do not own five or more acres of agricultural land, a residential flat that is more than 1,000 sq ft and that the family income is below Rs 8 lakh per annum.
Karnataka’s politicians have traditionally set up boards to appease particular communities when they come to power. Former chief minister Siddaramaiah, during his tenure between 2013 and 2018, created several boards to oversee the development of sub-sections of communities in the state. A Bhovi Development Corporation for the scheduled caste Bhovis, a Babu Jagajivan Ram Madiga Development Corporation for the scheduled caste Madigas, the Karnataka Thanda Development Corporation for the tribal Banjaras, and Vishwakarma, Uppara and Nijasharana Ambigara Chowdaiah Development corporations for these backward class groups were established during the tenure of Siddaramaiah.
Kumaraswamy followed in the footsteps of his predecessors and announced grants to organisations linked to several caste groups. In the 2018-19 budget, Kumaraswamy had Rs 10 crore earmarked for the development of very backward and deprived communities like Shillekyatha, Dombidasa, Gowli, Heluva, Shikaries, Hoovadiga, Kanchugara, Kammara, Darji, Devadiga, Budubudike, Thigala and others.
In November last year, present Chief Minister Yediyurappa announced the creation of three new boards and corporations to oversee the development of certain castes and linguistic groups including a corporation for the development of the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community (a dominant caste to which Yediyurappa himself belongs). The move to create a corporation for the development of the Lingayat community has been assailed by the opposition Congress as a political tactic by Yediyurappa to consolidate the votes of the community, who make up 17 per cent of the population of Karnataka and are known to be ardent supporters of Yediyurappa and the BJP. An effort to seek inclusion of Lingayats in the OBC category for reservations in central government jobs is also being widely seen as part of Yediyurappa’s attempt to increase hold on his community.
Ahead of a recent Sira assembly bypoll — a territory the BJP had never won — Yediyurappa’s government announced the creation of a development board for the Kadu Golla Scheduled Caste community with a fund outlay of Rs 10 crore. The micro-level caste strategy helped the BJP win the seat for the first time. While all major parties fielded candidates from the Vokkaliga caste (the dominant community in southern Karnataka who make up nearly 15 per cent of the state population) the BJP has been focusing on key sub-groups of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities.