While creation of a separate development board for Kadu Gollas – a Scheduled Castes sub-sect – with outlay of Rs 10 crore on September 29 was widely seen as having helped BJP win the Sira Assembly seat in Karnataka for the first time in the by-election held on November 3, Monday’s announcement of a Maratha development board, with a fund of Rs 50 crore, comes ahead of a prospective by-election to Basavakalyan Assembly segment.
A day later, the B S Yediyurappa government directed state officials to create a Lingayat development board, although no specified financial outlay was announced.
The spree of these announcements by the BJP government in the state has come in for criticism from Opposition Congress, with former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah calling these “tactics” a “strategy to win elections and cause divisions in society”.
The move to constitute a separate board for Marathi-speaking people has, meanwhile, sparked protests among pro-Kannada groups, who have given a call for a Karnataka bandh on December 5, on account of opposition to neighbouring Maharashtra’s claims on border regions of Karnataka, which have large Marathi-speaking populations.
Politics of pandering by all parties at helm
The big three parties of Karnataka – BJP, Congress and JD(S) – have all tried to pander to different communities in order to reap electoral success over the years. As CM in 2018-19, JD(S)'s H D Kumaraswamy announced creation of Brahmin Development Board (with Rs 25 crore outlay) and Arya Vaishya Development Board (Rs 10 crore). The Congress government before that recommended grant of religious minority status to Lingayats. The Siddaramaiah government had also formed Bhovi Development Corporation for benefit of SC Bhovis; Babu Jagjivan Ram Madiga Development Corporation for Madigas, another SC community; Karnataka Thanda Development Corporation for Banjaras (tribal group); and Vishwakarma, Uppara and Nijasharana Ambigara Chowdaiah Development Corporation for backward class groups.
After a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, state Law Minister J C Madhuswamy said, “The Cabinet has approved the creation of the Maratha Development Board and it has been decided in principle to create a Lingayat Veerashaiva Development Board.”
On opposition to these moves, he said, “It is not right for anyone to oppose or stage protests when something is taken up for the benefit of a community.”
The creation of the aratha board is seen as an effort by Yediyurappa to smoothen the BJP’s electoral path in Basavakalyan constituency, in Bidar district, which fell vacant after the death of Congress MLA B Narayan Rao in September. Yediyurappa’s younger son B Y Vijayendra, who has been waiting in the wings to join mainstream politics for a while, is reportedly among BJP aspirants for the seat.
The Assembly segment is an area where the philosophy of Lingayat community originated through the saint Basavanna.
Criticising the constitution of these boards, Siddaramaiah said: “Any decision to create a board or authority for development of a community without a proper study of socioeconomic conditions goes against (their) best interests and is an undemocratic decision. The BJP, which does not have any achievements on development, has adopted these tactics as a strategy to win elections and cause divisions in the society.”
Stating that the Congress is not opposed to the creation of Lingayat development board, he said, “Poverty exists beyond caste and religion. It exists among both lower castes and upper castes. We welcome programmes aimed at alleviating poverty across all communities. We will oppose the politically motivated and narrow-minded efforts being carried out.”
Former state minister and Congress leader M B Patil, who was a key figure when the Lingayat community got designated as a minority religion in the previous Congress-led government, said the Lingayat board would remain an eyewash if the government does not allocate funds. “The government should set aside Rs 3,000 crore to Rs 4,000 crore for the board since it is for the welfare of nearly 16 per cent of the state’s population,” he said.
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