The BJP government in Karnataka, led by CM Basavaraj Bommai, adjusted the SC/ST and OBC reservation ratios shortly before the Assembly elections to take into account long-standing requests for higher quotas put forth by various communities.
Bommai, who presided over the final cabinet of his term on Friday, abolished the current 4% reservation (2B category) for Muslims under the OBC quota and transferred them to the 10% pool for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) and increased the quota for Lingayats and Vokkaligas by 2% each.
A significant segment of the Lingayat population known as the Panchamasali Lingayat had been pushing for a change in the reservation category from 3B (5%) to 2A (15%). The Vokkaliga community, which was granted 4% of the OBC list’s 3A category’s reservations, made an identical demand. Accordingly, on March 24, the Bommai administration added two more categories to the OBC list- 2A for Vokkaligas and 2D for Lingayats, boosting the overall quota to 6% and 7%, respectively.
The Panchamasali Lingayat movement had put the BJP administration under pressure due to the Supreme Court’s 1992 ruling (Indira Sawhney vs Union of India) that set a 50% ceiling on SC, ST, and OBC quota. Moreover, the Panchamasali Lingayats shared the 5% quota with other Veerashaiva-Lingayat subcultures, besides, Maratha, Jain, Christian, Bunt and Satani caste groups and switching them from 3B to 2A category was bound to frustrate the 102 castes including Kuruba, Idiga, Devadiga, Kumbara, Vishwakarma and Tigala that are already reaping the benefits under 2A.
“The Muslims have been shifted from 2A to EWS quota as there is no Constitutional provision for reservation for religious minorities. As per Dr Ambedkar too reservation is for the caste alone. However, my government has decided to move the minorities to EWS as both the old and new categories have the economic criterion,” said Bommai while briefing the media after the cabinet meeting. He also increased the reservation quota from 50 per cent to 56 per cent.
During the winter session in Belagavi in December of last year, the Karnataka legislature enacted the “Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Seats in Educational Institutions and of Appointments or Posts in the Services Under the State) Bill, 2022” to increase the reservation for SCs from 15% to 17% and for STs from 3% to 7%.
Bommai further said that the SC community had been split into four divisions, citing Article 341(2) of the Constitution.
“Among the untouchables, the SC (Left) – Madiga, Adi Dravida and Bambi will now get 6 per cent reservation and SC (Right) which includes Adi Karnataka Holeya and Chalavadi will get 5.5 per cent. Among the touchables, the Banjara, Bhovi, Koracha and Korama will get 4.5 per cent and Are Alemari and Alemari (nomads) will get the remaining one percent,” explained Bommai.
Notably, on October 8, 2022, the state cabinet had officially approved raising the SC/ST quota based on a proposal by Judge H.N. Nagamohan Das. Moreover, an ordinance was also approved. However, the BJP administration wrote to the Center asking for a constitutional change on March 23. In contrast to the Supreme Court’s 50% cap, the amended policy has increased the percentage of reservations in Karnataka to 56% – SC 17%, ST 7%, and OBC 32%.
Meanwhile, CLP leader Siddaramaiah criticized the BJP for eliminating the 2A category (which had a 4% quota for Muslims) and allocating it to the Lingayats and Vokkaligas. “It is an effort to breed animosity between the communities,” he said.