Karnataka is in a churn. Just about every other community, irrespective of their equation with power, is demanding inclusion in the SC/ST or OBC list. The Panchamasalis, a subsect of the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, have set off a massive movement, supported by religious heads, demanding ‘upgradation’—they would rather be treated as landless artisans under 2a, than be considered landed agriculturists under 3b in the state list, thereby enhancing their share in the reservation pie from 5 to 15%.
They are not alone. A day after a massive rally in Bengaluru, Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada wore a deserted look. Yet another community wants to be listed as OBC. Kurubas and Ganigas want an ST tag. Valmiki Nayakas want their quota to be doubled from 3.5%. Even the Vokkaligas have a demand. It’s quite a cauldron. And most of these communities have a stake in power, being rather well represented in the state Cabinet. The Lingayats and Vokkaligas have powerful leaders in every party that matters in the state.
Even the Panchamasalis, who are reading the riot act to Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa, have two key ministers with meaty portfolios. What then is the logic of the reservation demand? Why are they hitting the road for higher quotas, just like powerful communities elsewhere—the Marathas, Jats, Patels and Gujjars? Quite counter-intuitive, prima facie.
Particularly when India is largely transitioning to a more private sector-led economy? Even if BSY convinces his central leaders to confer OBC category reservation to his entire Lingayat community, thereby avoiding partial treatment to the Panchamasalis, how would it help when government jobs are drying up and education too has mostly been privatised? The answer is the same everywhere. Karnataka boasts Bengaluru, the only Indian city on the global FDI map, with less unemployment than the rest of India. But beyond those glittering cafes and malls, the despair is universal.