Updated: February 4, 2021 7:44:12 am
IN WHAT APPEARS to be a strategy to blunt the influence of Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa over the dominant Lingayat community to which he belongs, a sub-sect of the community called the Panchamasali Lingayats – who constitute 70 per cent of the community – have launched a campaign demanding 15 per cent reservation under the backward classes quota in Karnataka.
A BJP MLA, Basavaraj Patil Yatnal, a vocal critic of Yediyurappa who is part of the campaign launched by Panchamasali seers, raised the quota demand in the state assembly on Tuesday.
Yatnal belongs to the Panchamasali Lingayat group, as opposed to Yediyurappa, who belongs to a smaller sub-sect called the Banajigas. He demanded a time-frame from the BJP government on including the Panchamasali Lingayats in 2A category for backward classes, to make them eligible for 15 per cent reservation in government jobs and education.
“Rallies have been held over the past few days to demand inclusion of 80 lakh Panchamasali Lingayats under Category 2A. The Chief Minister earlier said he would do it in two months but no action was taken. Reservation will help the community progress,” Yatnal said in the assembly.
Looking at options
The quota demand for Panchamasali Lingayats – along with attempts to mobilise rallies for inclusion of the large OBC Kuruba community in the ST category and a demand to increase ST quota for Valmiki Nayaka community from 3 per cent to 7.5 per cent – is being seen in political circles as an attempt by the BJP to carve out new political constituencies in the state. There has been speculation since a January 10 meeting with the BJP top brass that Chief Minister Yediyurappa has been asked to come up with a time frame to step aside for new leadership to take charge in the state.
Over the past fortnight the Panchamasali group of Lingayats has held rallies in different parts of north and central Karnataka to demand reservation for the community under the leadership of the seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swami and politicians such as Yatnal.
The rallies have decried the dominance of the Banajiga Lingayats in the state government. Yatnal and some of the seers of the community have alleged that only two MLAs from the Panchamshali community were among the 11 Lingayat ministers in the state government as compared to nine ministers from the smaller Banajiga community, including the Chief Minister.
“There are 17 legislators from the community (Panchamsalis). We are protesting on the streets for reservation and MLAs from the community must fight in the assembly for benefits or they should quit and we will elect others from the community,” Mruthyunjaya Swami said at a rally held in Davangere four days ago. He said the BJP should consider making a Panchamshali community member the Chief Minister if it carries out a proposed replacement of Yediyurappa.
Yatnal, a former Union minister, has alleged during the Panchamasali protests over the past few days that community members had been given insignificant Cabinet posts while the other sub-sect had bagged key portfolios. A total of 38 Veerashaiva Lingayat, who contested the 2018 state polls on BJP tickets, were elected to the assembly and 11 are ministers.
Apart from Yediyurappa, Industry Minister Jagadish Shettar, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Minor Irrigation Minister J C Madhuswamy belong to the Banajiga sect while only the newly inducted Mines and Geology Minister Murugesh Nirani and Small Scale Industries Minister C C Patil belong to the Panchamshali community.
The demand from the Panchamasali sub-sect for more representation in the government had in January 2020 resulted in a seer Vachanananda Swami asking Yediyurappa to quit if he cannot provide more representation for the community. Yediyurappa had threatened to walk out of a public event over the seer’s threat saying he will not succumb to such measures.
The Veerashaiva Lingayat community who make up 17 per cent of the state population is currently provided five per cent reservation on the whole under the 3B category of backward classes.
Sources in Yediyurappa’s camp said the protests by the Lingayat sub-sect is an attempt by some seers of the community to arm-twist the government into providing concessions.
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