Siddaramaiah faces backlash over caste census

On one side, the Karnataka Chief Minister has a chance to leave behind a strong legacy, but on the other, there's a risk of causing division within his party if he pushes too hard on this issue.
Siddaramaiah faces backlash over caste census

The head of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission, Jayaprakash Hegde, handed over the report of the Social, Economic, and Educational Caste Census to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Thursday. Back in 2014, during his previous term as the Congress Chief Minister, Siddaramaiah commissioned this report to list the various castes in the state along with their socio-economic and educational status.

When Siddaramaiah received the report, he mentioned that it would be presented before the Cabinet at the upcoming meeting. The Cabinet will then decide whether to accept the survey recommendations or not. The report was initially expected to be released during the elections in five states last November, but it got delayed due to opposition from the influential Vokkaliga and Lingayat communities in the state.

The survey faces opposition from the two dominant communities in the state, the Lingayats and Vokkaligas, who fear that the survey results might reveal lower numbers than what's estimated for them. Both communities have already labeled the survey as unscientific. However, the Backward Classes, SC-STs, and minorities in the state, who typically support the Congress, are eagerly awaiting the report as it's likely to show an increase in their numbers.

A version of the report, which leaked in 2018, indicated that Lingayats and Vokkaligas constituted only 9.8% and 8.2% of Karnataka's population of six crore, respectively, instead of the assumed 17% and 15%. While the report only lists castes and doesn't offer recommendations, these communities fear that the results could influence government quotas, including the Cabinet, where Lingayats and Vokkaligas currently hold a majority.

The Congress government is unlikely to present the report in the state Assembly before the Lok Sabha polls. If it does, the ruling party is expected to be cautious in accepting the results. The Karnataka caste survey serves as a test for the Congress's commitment to backward classes and marginalized communities, as well as Siddaramaiah's commitment to the OBCs. Siddaramaiah, himself an OBC, has garnered strong support from the community, which has helped him emerge as one of the state's prominent mass leaders.

Siddaramaiah aims to promote and accept the report to establish a legacy akin to the state's renowned OBC leader and former Congress Chief Minister Devaraj Urs. However, he appears to be constrained by political pressures, likely leading to acceptance only after the Lok Sabha polls.